Article excerpt from Financial Review | 22 November 2012
The Australian and New Zealand governments have decided on major initiatives over the next year to implement a massive modernisation and extension program for national mapping, location, imagery and spatial data information, in a search for large scale improvements in national productivity.
The approach is being set out in detail at a three-day conference in Canberra, Spatial@gov, held at the National Convention Centre, organised by CeBit Global Conferences. The program has a string of high profile government and private industry representatives, covering virtually the whole spectrum of the spatial industry.
The underlying approach was set out in no uncertain terms by the two responsible ministers, Martin Ferguson, federal Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism and New Zealand’s Maurice Williamson, Minister for Land Information. The plenary sessions were chaired by Dan Paull, CEO of the national mapping data agency PSM Australia, which will have currency of some of the enhanced data bases anticipated under forward planning.
The framework of the overall program was outlined later in the morning by Drew Clarke, Secretary of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, which will be playing a central coordinating role in the ongoing program.
The day before, the national geospatial group, SIBA (Spatial Industries Business Association) elected former federal politician and surveying specialst, Gary Nairn, as chairman. Mr Nairn emphasised that SIBA would be promoting a unified approach from the geospatial industry to support essential government initiatives, including standard approaches to coding of spatial data on both sides of the Tasman.
After a welcome to country from Agnes Shea, an elder from the local Ngunnawal tribe, Mr Ferguson said that from a political perspective, location data must become a greater part of planning and delivery of services, in order to get greater results from resources available.
Spatial policy issues were growing in importance, not just in Australia but in New Zealand as well. Last week in Wellington the joint Australian and New Zealand spatial body, ANZLIC, had decided on 10 specific principles to guide spatial policy in both countries in future.
“This is a highly complex business, and there are a lot of moving parts that need to be consulted,” Mr Ferguson said. “I can assure you it has been discussed at Australian cabinet level. I’ve been particularly pleased by the increasing co-operation of the PSMA. For government, our job is to work on greater integration of spatial decisions with policy.
“I heard locational information described as the glue that holds policy together. That is the first time I’ve heard it described that way, but it does make sense. The benefits of the spatial industry are now well proven.”
Mr Williamson emphasised that spatial data was to be a basic part of policy consideration by New Zealand departments and agencies, “even those that have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table. In Britain Yes, Minister is a comedy. In New Zealand it’s a documentary. We should be out evangelising the importance of spatial data to the rest of the community,” he said.
“Geospatial is even more than the glue which holds the economy together, it’s the bedrock on which the economy depends. It’s just a phenomenally exciting time to be involved in geospatial policy.”
Mr Nairn urged a united front for the spatial industry in advising governments. “Having been a federal member of parliament for almost 12 years, and a minister and parliamentary secretary for more than three years, I understand very well the importance of industry representation and how best to interact with government,” he said.
“Industry representation 101 is to have a united industry with one voice. Government doesn’t always understand the internal idiosyncrasies of diverse industries so look for peak organisations that represent the broader industry.”