Te Puni Kokiri claims Virtual Earth first

Virtual Earth used in a GIS project to replace the ministry's old Maori Land Information Base website

Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) is completing what is believed to be New Zealand’s first implementation of Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Virtual Earth has been used in a pilot project for Transit New Zealand, but that scheme is currently on hold following its recent merger with the Land Transport Safety Agency, to form the New Zealand Transity Authority (NZTA).

TPK information architect Paul Langham says Virtual Earth is being used in a GIS project to replace the ministry’s old Maori Land Information Base website, which has recently become very unstable. “The functionality is intended to replace that which was previously available on MLIB — that is, displaying the location and basic details relating to Maori land blocks (the land block data has not been updated). It provides for browsing the map or searching to locate the land blocks,” he says.

Langham describes the project as remedial rather than a new development, saying something had to be done to rectify issues with the existing system, built in 1996 and last upgraded in 2000.

However, the company whose product it was based upon, and which had provided support up to now, went out of business earlier this year.

“Although planned to simply replace the existing functionality [Virtual Earth] does provide a superior interface with additional detail and superior usability,” he says.

Earlier this year, Computerworld revealed that TPK was working with the Ministry of Justice on such a GIS project but was also considering Oracle and open source technology.

Developed by Wellington-based software house E-spatial, whose CIO, Matti Seikkula, believes this is the first Virtual Earth implementation in New Zealand, Langham says this particular project was to overcome an operational issue and outside of the joint initiative with the Ministry of Justice.

For this implementation, TPK also considered Google Earth before settling on Microsoft.

“The over-riding concern was to develop the required functionality at the minimum cost and shortest delivery frame. Our existing infrastructure is primarily Microsoft so this proposal made sense especially as there are no additional licensing costs involved,” he says.

The project is now in testing and will not go into production until this is complete. “Although this solution is scalable and we could easily extend its functionality and add layers, we are continuing to work with the Ministry of Justice on a joint infrastructure and future plans will take both scenarios into account,” he says.

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