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How do I use GIS?

This is the first in our blog series themed around helping you find out about development from the comfort and corona virus- free confines of your own home. Whether you need a resource consent or not, we hope the blogs will be helpful in your development planning.

There is so much information you can find out yourself, if you knew where to look, what you were looking for and what it meant. This blog focuses on Geographic Information Systems, colloquially called GIS.

GIS was first developed in the 1960’s and is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage, and present all types of geographical data. Its used by a huge number of people and is very useful in terms of property development. This is because it pulls together so much information in one place and shows it spatially.

Most local Council’s will have their own GIS system. This will often show:

  • Your property, on a cadastral map and/ or with an aerial overlay,

  • Land contours,

  • Approximate location of site boundaries,

  • Legal roads (some of which may not be formed), parks and other recreational land,

  • What reticulated services are available and where the public pipelines are,

  • Where any flooding areas or overland flowpaths are,

  • Areas of importance to local tangata whenua,

  • Important ecological and archaeological areas.

Sometimes the GIS will also hold historical information, such as aerial photos. This means you can go through the old data and check old land uses. This is useful, as it can show old land uses that may impact on your development. For example, was it used as an orchard and could the land be contaminated?

In a planning sense, GIS will also tell you the district plan zoning of your site, and overlays, scheduled activities, controls or similar that can impact on development and trigger the need for a resource consent. This information is critical to know at the start of your investigations, as this governs what Council plan rules affect your development, and as a consequence what you can and can’t do, what needs resource consent and what doesn’t.

So how do you use the GIS? Usually, it’s based on your entering an address (or legal description. You can find this on your certificate of title). This will then bring up the property. Auckland Council’s Geomaps is shown below, with the address entry area circled.

This will then bring up the property, and a lot of site information. In the Auckland example, you can see this down the left hand side, and it includes the legal description, site size etc.

You have options from this point to look at:

  • Map themes,

  • Zoom in or out,

  • Print,

  • Measure and

  • Look at traffic cameras (pretty cool aye!).

These options are all along the top tool bar. In terms of themes, it’s always useful to look at hydrology (including overland flowpaths and flooding) and services (good to know if the services are present, and where they are). In terms of zoning etc, you can find this out by selecting “planning”, “district plan” or similar. Planning maps always use different colours and symbols to illustrate different zones, overlays and features. Make sure you check the key so you’re clear on what you’re looking at.

GIS can take a while to get used to, and to look through all the information that’s available. Take some time to really look through it all thoroughly- you never know what interesting bit of information is hiding under an obscure theme name!

Want to know more?

If you want more information or have a specific development in mind, give our team a call. We’re a friendly group of very experienced professionals, and will give you honest, reliable advice. You can contact is on 09 427 9966 or

Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

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