Ministry for the Environment adopts Creative Commons

Spatial databases released under open-use licence

The Ministry for the Environment has made its Land Cover Database and the Land Environments New Zealand classification available online, for free and with an unrestricted licence.

The ministry says the move is part of a strategy to make public sector data more accessible.

The spatial databases contain geographic boundaries and descriptions of the types of land cover and the environment they exist in. They are used in central and local government for analysis and planning to make better environmental management decisions, the ministry says.

Last week, Computerworld reported group wanting to open up government data for use have started a website giving access to a number of datasets that they said are difficult to find through official sources.

The first project of, the Open Data Catalogue, guides people to datasets that are created and maintained by government agencies, but are hard to access and subject to payment and/or restrictive licence agreements, dictating how the data can be redistributed, principal Glen Barnes told Computerworld.

“The Open Data Catalogue is an attempt to classify where this information resides, who ‘owns’ it, what licence it is distributed under and if it is free or not,” states an explanation on the catalogue website.

The Ministry for the Environment says its move to open access was prompted by efforts to make data more widely available, including the New Zealand Geospatial Strategy, which has a goal to improve access to spatial information, and a State Services Commission review of how public sector information is licensed for re-use.

The ministry says another driver is to get more value out of the investment the government made to create the databases.

"The real value comes from the uses the data is being put to. The more users there are, the more uses the data is put to, the greater the return," it says in a statement announcing the changes.

The databases were previously being distributed under licence by Terralink International and Landcare Research, but these agreements were due to expire.

A Creative Commons licence removes restrictions on the use of the data while allowing the Crown to retain its copyright over the databases, the ministry says.

The data will be distributed through a new service was set up by Koordinates which provides a free distribution service for non-commercial data.

The ministry says we can now expect the databases to turn up on other websites and applications.

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