Emergency services could still be getting lost up the inaccessible and misnamed streets of New Zealand towns until well into next year, without a useful digital information base.
While basic street and road layout information is computerised, notably in the long-running Landonline project, more is needed to equip emergency crews with a knowledge of what the streets actually look like.
A system aimed at providing this information, the Emergency Services and Government Administration project (ESA), will also provide a common reference database for a variety of central and local government agencies; but it is unlikely to get funding until the 2005 Budget, says chief topographer and hydrographer John Spittal, at Land Information New Zealand.
As an example of the difficulty, “take Woodward Street in Wellington,” says Spittal. “The topographical maps show it as a street running between Lambton Quay and The Terrace. In fact, it has steps at the Terrace end and is not negotiable by a vehicle.”
Some roads only exist on paper – they’re in the topographical database, but have not been built yet. An address assigned by the owner of a property may be different from that officially recorded – for example, if the property is on a corner and formally described as belonging to one street, when its main entrance is on the other; or the owner just prefers that name.
Colloquial local expressions such as “James Smith’s Corner” – the corner in central Wellington where there was once a department store of that name, long since converted to different use – are recorded formally on no standard map, and an emergency crew directed there may not know where it is.
As a data resource likely to be used by many government agencies, ESA is mooted as part of the E-government Interoperability Framework, e-GIF, a project to rationalise and standardise such commonly used resources to avoid duplication and conflict. E-GIF encompasses technologies from secure interdepartmental communication to web-page design standards and is now expanding to cover procedural as well as technological matters.
The ESA project has yet to devise a detailed business case, for presentation to the appropriate ministers. The initial investigation leading to the business-case “will probably be internally funded”, Spittal says, but the decision to release funding for the substantive project lies ultimately with cabinet.