Where others see boring government statistics, Whangarei 15-year-old Zac Miller-Waugh sees the potential for useful tools that can enrich lives.

The promising programmer will travel to Sydney for a red carpet event this week with some of the brightest techie minds from Australia and New Zealand.

Zac earned the honour after participating in Whangarei's first GovHack event - a 48-hour hack-a-thon during which participants created tools and apps that made public data easier to understand and use.

"There's a huge amount of data available, but in a format that's more or less useless," the Huanui College student said. "It [GovHack] encourages people to make use of it and shows government that you can do things with it."


The Huanui College student plans to become a software engineer and taught himself to code. His group's "Soul Map" project took into account the users' preferences and used health, population, and crime data to show them what areas they would be best to live in.

Zac wrote the code and interfacing to make the app work, which earned him a $500 prize and the "Spirit of GovHack" award, taking him to a national awards evening in Wellington and a further event in Sydney.

He will be joined by his father, Kevin Waugh, and NorthTec's STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project manager Nigel Studdart. They will meet more than 100 GovHackers from 20 cities. Mr Waugh said the Sydney trip was like "a curtain and window opening on a bigger world" for his son.

Mr Studdart will join the contingent to Australia to help promote Whangarei as a destination for the technology sector.

Northland Inc general manager business growth Joseph Stuart said the GovHack event was an example of the opportunities that could be expanded if Northland's internet access was improved.