The Government has made one of its biggest single Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investments to date, forking out $19 million for the expansion of 3D mapping technology.

The co-funding was provided to increase the national coverage of LiDAR data – a light and laser measurement system that measures the Earth's surface and creates highly accurate 3D maps of the land.

The funding will be spread around councils across the country and allocated based on applications.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the funding was provided for councils, facing cost pressures, to take part in the Government's programme to collect and make this data available nationwide.

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"LiDAR enables smarter planning and investment in forestry planting operations, greater agricultural productivity and more efficient infrastructure development," Jones said.

He said the data was "essential" for better flood risk mapping, understanding the impacts of climate change, and improved environmental management.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage said LiDAR was an "invaluable resource" which would help councils better understand the impacts of natural hazards, such as flooding and sea level rise.

$10m has been given to the Hundertwasser Art Centre construction at Whangarei Town Basin. Photo / Michael Cunningham
$10m has been given to the Hundertwasser Art Centre construction at Whangarei Town Basin. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Local Government NZ vice-president Stuart Crosby said the LiDAR expansion would also allow councils to more efficiently plan and develop housing, road and water infrastructure.

The $19 million price tag makes it one of the most expensive single PGF projects to date.
Of the more than 85 PGF announcements made since February, only a handful of single projects surpass what the Government had spent on LiDAR.

Similar sized projects include the more than $13 million earmarked for track upgrades at Mt Taranaki and the $10 million that was put aside for the Hundertwasser Arts Centre.

Other projects, such as the $27.4 million to redevelop Rotorua's Lakefront and the Whakarewarewa Forest, were announced as a number of smaller funding packages.

But LiDAR's funding does not come close to the PGF's two biggest funding announcements so far – $137 million for roading upgrades in Gisborne and $240 million from the fund allocated to the Government's One Billion trees project.

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Councils would need to apply for the co-funding from the PGF to gain access to LiDAR.

Sage said land Information New Zealand (LINZ) would assist the Provincial Development Unit by providing co-ordination and technical support for all programmes to ensure national consistency and open data access.

What is LiDAR?
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data, or height data, is precise laser measurements of the Earth's surface that are used for creating highly accurate 3D maps of the land.

The data is used for better management of natural hazards, like flooding, erosion and landslides, as well as providing land information to farms.

It is also widely used for development, engineering, architecture and design applications by the private sector.