Spatial Information in the New Zealand Economy

October 17, 2009

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Executive summary

In 2008, the use and re-use of spatial information is estimated to have added $1.2 billion in productivity-related benefits to the New Zealand economy. This value is the result of increasing adoption of modern spatial information technologies over the period 1995-2008, and is equivalent to slightly more than 0.6 per cent of GDP or GNP in 2008.

Other (non-productivity) benefits linked to the increasing use of spatial information are probably worth a multiple of this. Uncertainties around the likelihoods of future events and valuation methodologies limit the ability to express such benefits in dollar terms; however, non-productivity benefits are nevertheless important to policy and decision making.

Examples of the use of modern spatial information technology can be found in all sectors of New Zealand's economy. There is tremendous potential for further benefits to be realised, but the timing and likely degree of future impact is difficult to assess because the technology and applications continue to evolve rapidly, and because policies may also shift.

A range of barriers to the adoption of spatial information have constrained uptake and limited the ability to reap additional benefits in New Zealand. Past and current barriers notably include problems in accessing data, inconsistency in data standards, and a general lack of skills and knowledge relating to modern spatial information technology.

Had key barriers been removed it is estimated that New Zealand could have benefited from an additional $481 million in productivity-related benefits in 2008, generating at least $100 million in government revenue. This "cost" of the presence of barriers will rise with each year that passes, as the nation's capacity to adopt is increasing continually and pent-up demand is growing.

A government intervention representing the best "value-for-money" for New Zealand in the short term, which can be implemented at relatively low cost and which has the potential to generate benefits quickly is the release of basic spatial data held by government (i.e., enabling access at marginal cost, which would be zero in instances where it is made available over the Internet).

This would be a logical first step to develop New Zealand's spatial data infrastructure (SDI). A broader intervention securing an effective SDI would lead to the highest benefits overall to New Zealand. This report estimates the benefit-to-cost (BCR) ratio of such an intervention to be at least 5:1 where it is costed at $100 million and only one year of benefits is counted.

Download the complete 153-page report


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