New Plymouth District Council has been put on the map after its GIS work was praised by a Harvard University scholar.

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, and uses spatial data to create maps and graphics, organising layers of information into visualisations using maps and 3D scenes.

The work the four-strong team did during the alert levels has been praised by Matthew Leger from Harvard's Innovations in Government Programme.

The team were providing support to the Taranaki Emergency Management Office (TEMO) and Civil Defence during the alert levels and created a map detailing what key public facilities and businesses were open. The map is ready to be used by TEMO again if the alert levels rise.


Matthew has identified the map as an example of best practice in local government from across the world for how GIS is being applied to the Covid-19 response.

Matthew is a research assistant for the Innovations in Government Program at the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, based at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In a document he wrote in June this year, titled Covid-19 Response: GIS Best Practices from Across the Globe, Matthew identified the New Plymouth team's work as an example of the ways GIS has effectively been applied to Covid responses around the world.

"Covid's impact on public services and businesses alike continues to change on a daily basis," he wrote.

"Businesses closing down or changing their hours can create confusion for residents looking for key services. To help keep people informed about changes in business operations, as well as the location of key services they can still access, officials in New Zealand built a map that categorizes businesses and other services by their open status."

NPDC chief information officer Steve McIntosh says he is pleased with the recognition for NPDC's GIS experts and their work helping to break down complex information into easy to understand maps and graphics for the public and decision-makers.

"To feature in an Ivy League university's report is a major achievement and we are delighted to see the GIS team getting kudos for their top work. The key is to help communicate what's going on and what decisions need to be made by presenting data in an accessible way."

The company behind the GIS map-making technology, ESRI, has also praised the Covid map and also highlighted the team's work on the TSB Festival of Lights map as a great example of using effective design and GIS data to guide public through an event.


The 2019/20 summer was the first time the team has created an interactive map for the TSB Festival of Lights. The map included entrances to Pukekura Park, parking locations, information on the lighting displays and entertainment.

Steve says the festival map featured in an online gallery showing the best maps from across the world made by GIS users at a recent ESRI conference attended virtually by about 80,000 people.

"We had a record-breaking TSB Festival of Lights season last summer and the number of people using the easy-to-use online map tripled as well from the previous summer. The map was a great way for visitors to navigate around the park and find their way to the light features and the awesome entertainment."