New Zealand Geospatial Research Conference 2022 – Report from the Chair

The fourth New Zealand Geospatial Research Conference (NZGRC) was held on 29th and 30th August 2022 on Massey’s Wellington Campus, hosted by Massey Geoinformatics Collaboratory. The current NZGRC series evolved from the Spatial Information Research Conference (SIRC) series, various versions of which go back to the 1980s at the University of Otago School of Surveying. 

The purpose of the conference was to bring together researchers at all levels, from students to senior researchers, from all sectors and from across the country as a forum for discussions on current geospatial research. The conference theme was Finding our Way to an Open World, through which we aimed to go beyond open data, open access publications and open source software, to fully open research, fuelled by collaboration and cooperation across institutions and sectors. This change of paradigm from the common competitiveness for funding etc. in research is key to ensuring that geospatial science is most effectively used to address our current local and global challenges – it is our responsibility as geospatial scientists to work together to help create the substantial changes needed going forward, and NZGRC 2022 was an opportunity to accelerate open geospatial research to this end.

There were 76 registrants, with all of the New Zealand Universities, many CRIs and several government departments, iwi and private companies represented, and several registrants from Australia. Two keynote speeches, two long papers, 11 short papers, 11 lightning talks, 5 posters and 5 workshops were presented across an enormous range of topics as a great showcase of the enormous breadth in geospatial research being undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The supporters and sponsors of the conference were key to its success.  The conference sponsors were Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (lunches, postgraduate scholarships, place names workshop), Orbica (conference bags), Eagle Technology (morning and afternoon teas), FrontierSI (networking event), Survey and Spatial NZ (keynote speaker and postgraduate lunch) and Remote Sensing Journal (keynote speaker).  The conference was hosted by Massey Geoinformatics Collaboratory with support from University of Otago School of Surveying, Massey Joint Centre for Disaster Research and Crisis Lab, University of Canterbury Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau and the Resilience to Nature National Science Challenge.  My thanks also to the Organising Committee for all their hard work, particularly Tony Moore (Programme Chair) and Alicia Cui, who handled a lot of the logistics aspects, and to Pragyan Das and Kalana Wijegunarathna for their help.

Inevitably, there were some unexpected last minute changes due to COVID that kept us on our toes, and my sincere thanks to all those who stepped up at the very last minute to make the conference a success, including David O’Sullivan who gave a keynote talk with very short notice, Hone Morris for ensuring that the opening was a great experience for the conference attendees, as well as ensuring correct tikanga and Jon Procter for his key role on the Māori place names tour.

The conference began with a whakatau in which the conference participants were welcomed onto the new, acclaimed Te Rau Karamu Marae. Kurt, Kura and other mana whenua invited conferenceattendees to enter with traditional pāeke and waiata, with response on behalf of the manuhiri by Hone Morris and others. Following morning tea in the wharekai, I welcomed conference registrants and introduced the keynote speaker, David O’Sullivan, Professor of Geography and Geospatial Science at Victoria University Wellington, who gave a keynote speech on the topic “Computing geographically: rethinking space and place in GIScience”, in which he called for a broader perspective of geographic information that goes beyond our usual geometric representations. 

The first session on Representing Geography in Indigenous Languages included the two long papers of the conference, with Hone Morris and myself presenting on work from the He Tatai Whenua project on a Te Ao Māori land classification, and Claudia Cialone presenting some of her work on studying the spatial Knowledge of the people of West Arnhem Land, Australia (for which she won the Conference People’s Choice Award).

The afternoon session included three workshops:

  • He Hīkonga Tangata, He Ara Mātauranga: Māori Place Names and Geographical Terms around Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington was led by Jon Procter and Hone Morris and involved a bus tour in which registrants were taken to key locations around the city and given a summary of traditional place names, their meanings and links to the landscape and geology. 
  • Digital Twin foundations led by Kat Salm and Kate Williams involved interactive discussions of the many aspects that impact on the design of digital twins.
  • Creating ICSM Compliant ISO19115-3 Metadata led by Byron Cochrane and Liz Kolster provided a background about the latest metadata standards for geographic data.

The first day ended with a networking poster session, in which five posters were presented and a human scavenger hunt helped people to learn about each other’s geospatial background and knowledge.

The action-packed second day of the conference started with a keynote talk from Jasmin Callosa-Tarr, Asia Pacific Technical Leader and NZ Spatial Lead for Jacobs, on the topic of “Exploring our Geographic Mindsets.”  Jasmin told us about the key drivers of her career and inspired us to consider the purpose behind our research.  We then launched into a series of five lightning talks on Hazards and their Impact on Society, incorporating earthquakes, flooding and weather events and exploring the use of satellite imagery and text extraction, among other methods. This was followed by a session on the key topic of Privacy and Confidentiality of Geographic Data.

Over lunch, postgraduate students met in a session led by Ben Adams to discuss career paths, and Mairead de Roiste, Geoff O’Malley and John Lowry led a workshop on  Geospatial Education in Aotearoa New Zealand, including both educators from the Universities and industry representatives to consider the requirements and expectations of geospatial education from industry and educators.

Lunch was followed by sessions on health applications of geospatial science, including mobile phone use, fibrous erionite transport to school and the role of bats in pandemics and geospatial data in language and text, including use of web and social media as sources of geographic data, and spatial analysis of Fijian language.  The final session of the conference addressed a range of different application areas, including education, financial data, dairy productive and fur seals.  It was a whirlwind tour of different things that you can do with geospatial science.

Before the final conference closing the award winners were presented:

Best paper: Present and Future Distribution of Bat Hosts of Sarbecoviruses: Implications for Conservation and Public Health, Renata L. Muylaert, Tigga Kingston, Jinhong Luo, Maurício H. Vancine, Nikolas Galli, Reju S. John, Maria C. Rulli and David T. S. Hayman

Best poster: Crowdsourcing Tsunami and Sound Observations in Aotearoa Following the January 2022 Hunga Eruption, Tonga, Rachel Lawson, Sally Potter, Sara Harrison, Mary Anne Thompson Clive, Geoff Kilgour, David Burbidge, Kate Clark, Brad Scott, Christina Magill and Danielle Charlton

People’s choice award: Spatial Navigation in Western Arnhem Land: A Novel Approach to Contextualize Geospatial and Language Data, Claudia Cialone

The highlight of the conference for me as conference chair was to see people interacting, making new connections and renewing old ones. In particular, the energy of the postgraduate students and other early career researchers was inspiring, and I hope the conference gave them a chance to forge connections that will strengthen as their careers develop.  Seeing people sitting together in groups working together after so much time meeting mainly online was a great pleasure, and I hope the conference registrants enjoyed it as much as I did.

Going forward, we plan to hold the next NZGRC in 2023 (since the 2022 Conference was one year late), with a location yet to be confirmed.

Kristin Stock

Conference Chair and Director of Massey Geoinformatics Collaboratory, Massey University

On behalf of the organising committee:

Tony Moore, School of Surveying, University of Otago (Programme Chair)

Matt Wilson, Director of Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau, University of Canterbury (Workshops Chair)

Mairéad de Róiste, Victoria University of Wellington (Lightning Talks Co-Chair)

John Lowry, School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University (Posters Chair)

Ben Adams, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Canterbury (Postgraduate Event Chair)

Ashraf Dewan, School of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Curtin University (Lightning Talks Co-Chair)

Kat Salm, Harrison Grierson and Frontier SI (Industry Engagement Chair)

Alicia Cui, Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University (Marketing Chair)

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