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Our Environment web application gets a major refresh

Many people are familiar with the S-Map Online web mapping web site, but do you know about the sister web mapping site, Our Environment?

Launched in 2012, Our Environment (http://ourenvironment.scinfo.org.nz) is a Land Atlas of New Zealand. It provides users with free online maps and reports illustrating various aspects of the land, land resources, and landscapes of New Zealand:

  • protected land.
  • land use capability
  • land suitability
  • vegetation
  • erosion
  • ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grassland
  • ecosystems services such as water yield, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrate leaching

Our Environment presents maps and data to you without the need for desktop geographic information system (GIS) software or advanced technical expertise.


Our Environment has been designed to complement S-map Online, which provides easy access to information on soils and is aimed at the more specialist user. Our Environment has a more thematic-question-based focus, although it is possible to select data-to-map focus based on the source dataset, e.g. NZ Land Resource Inventory (NZLRI), Land Cover Database (LCDB) or category of data, e.g. protected areas network. One of the goals of Our Environment has been to design an application that is usable by non-specialists, although experts should find it of value too.
In June, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research released version 2.0 of Our Environment. The main features of version 1.0 have been retained, which means users can still:

  • use online, interactive maps to learn about their local environment and regional differences
  • select particular science data themes to view as maps
  • view more information from a data theme for a location and area
  • obtain further details about the source and origin of data themes (metadata)
  • create high quality, custom PDF maps for printing
  • connect through to Manaaki Whenua's LRIS Portal to download the data they are currently viewing (http://lris.scinfo.org.nz).

So, what’s new in version 2.0?

  • We have completely redesigned the site so that it will work on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The site modifies or removes features to maintain the quality of user experience regardless of the device used.
  • Our Environment uses data from nationally significant databases such as the NZLRI, the LCDB, and other national datasets, e.g. Protected Areas, and is designed to support applications at local, regional, and national scales. In the latest version, we have updated any science layers for which there were new data. In addition, we have added a set of new layers in a group called ‘Ecosystems Services’. These 6 data layers were created in the MBIE funded Innovative Data Analysis Programme and include water yield, greenhouse gas emissions, and sediment loss.
  • We have improved the way users can select the science (topic) layers they want to view on the map, making it easier to add or remove layers without restarting the application.
  • Being able to define an area on the map to create a statistical report has been extended to allow querying against LINZ property boundaries (although recommended for larger land parcels only because of the resolution of the data), Regional Councils, and Territorial Authorities. A summary area table is displayed to the user. The LINZ property boundaries are supplied live from the LINZ data service. Other contextual layers are querying third party data services for information. This means that layers, such as LINZ property boundaries, are always up-to-date with the authoritative source.
  • On a tablet or smartphone, a user can now use the ‘locate me feature’ to zoom the map to their current location, if they have the location feature (GPS) enabled.
  • Finally, it is now possible to add map layers from third party map services that use the WMTS (Open Geospatial Consortium Web Map Tile Service specification) API. This experimental feature works best with maps that are in the NZTM projection, but we try to re-project on the fly if the maps are in a different projection. To use a WMTS service  in this way requires WMTS maps that cover or fall entirely within New Zealand.

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