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The Electoral Commission and maps

with one comment

I have been having an ‘enlightening’ discussion with the Electoral Commission recently when they released the maps of proposed electorate changes for the next two elections. After having a little look at the site, it struck me that the maps provided actually made it quite difficult to allow proper spatial analysis to occur as the proposed boundaries were not available for download and analysis.

There are broad level maps available, for example Rangitata, as well as a web mapping solution – although as I write this, it doesn’t appear to be displaying the proposed boundaries to any significant level of detail.

Disappointed at the options of trying to compare the current and proposed electoral boundaries, I sent some feedback to the website asking if they would consider making the information available in a more suitable format.


I have just visited this page on the proposed electoral boundaries.

Is there any chance that you could provide the boundaries in
geospatial formats so that the people can view it in say Google
Earth? Publishing shapefiles for the proposed changes would also be
useful for those people that are GIS-savvy like myself and would like
to perform a bit more analysis.

Thanks in advance for the consideration.

A few days later on the 8th of May, I received this reply from the Electoral Commission.

Dear Mr Treadgold

The Commission is required under the Electoral Act to make the proposed boundaries available in a form that ensures they are defined accurately. This is to facilitate public inspection of the proposals and the making of objections and counter objections to them. The Commission is not able to provide the boundaries in geospatial format because it would not be able to control the continued accuracy of the boundaries released in this format.

Yours sincerely

name removed
For the Secretary of the Representation Commission

I replied with the following.

Thank you for the reply name removed.

There is a need to strike a balance between making the information
available, and making it available in a form that can be used for
analysis. Currently, there is no demographic information provided on
the interactive mapping of the Elections website. If there are no
plans to make this available, then some means is required to make the
proposed boundaries available in a form that opens them up to more
rigourous analysis, so that more thorough consultation over proposed
boundary changes can occur.

Can I make a suggestion to the Representation Commission that they
should consider making the proposed boundaries available as a web
service as suggested by the e-GIF Geospatial Information Standards
that are part of the NZ E-Government Programme? It should also
include the use of metadata to define the accuracy and other relevant
metadata. Land Information NZ could naturally provide more
information here.

e-GIF Geospatial Information Standards

A suitable compromise may be able to be reached by providing the
information via a Web Feature Service (WFS) that allows control and
accuracy to be maintained, but at the same time allows GIS users to
combine the trusted information directly from your server, with
demographic and other relevant information (that is currently not
being provided on the Elections website) in their GIS to allow proper
analysis to occur. This mechanism works by allowing GIS software to
connect directly to a server (under Elections control) that allows
downloading of the boundaries directly into the GIS software so that
analysis can take place with other data layers.

If the boundaries are not provided in a geospatial format, I would
suggest that it will not be long before individuals sit down and
digitise the boundaries themselves to meet the need. This process
would likely produce more errors, errors that may not have occurred
if the data was provided in suitable formats in the first place by
the responsible agency.

This would most likely occur in the lead up to the next election as
interest in the electorates increases. I am aware of individuals that
have downloaded the whole topographic database of New Zealand from
LINZ’s TopoOnline website just so that the data can be used to
produce maps for use in mapping GPS units because the current
offering in the market at the time were abysmal (I am currently
President of the NZ Recreational GPS Society ).

It would make more sense for the Commission to consider the
publication of authoritative boundaries in a manner that pre-empts
moves to produce boundaries by alternative*, labour-intensive and
error-prone means.

Kind regards

Gavin Treadgold

* There are a number of countries that don’t provide road information
in a geospatial format – such as Australia[1] and the UK. In the past
few years, significant data capturing efforts[2] have been undertaken
in numerous countries to create duplicate datasets because the
Government is not meeting the demand.


I believe this is a very important issue, perhaps one of the most important spatial issues that we could face – that of making the data available in a means that allows detailed analysis of any proposed electoral changes to occur. If you feel strongly about this, then I would recommend that you contact the Electoral Commission and ask them to make the information available.

I’ll keep you informed of replies.

Written by Gavin Treadgold

May 19th, 2007 at 10:46 am