Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Walking Access Commission pair mapping out a bright future

Two young New Zealand mapmakers are set to receive a global award for developing new mapping applications that help people better access the outdoors.

Danica Torres and Julian Hitchman, of the Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa, have been selected to receive a Special Achievement in GIS (geographic information system) Award at the 2022 Esri Global User Conference. The global award recognises outstanding work with GIS technology.

Danica and Julian’s nomination for work developing Pocket Maps – a mobile application for the outdoors – stood out from more than 100,000 others.

Pocket Maps allows New Zealanders to view public access areas and conservation land across Aotearoa – from their device, anytime and anywhere. Maps can be viewed online with a Wi-Fi connection or downloaded to be viewed offline.

They also developed the Commission’s open data portal, which gives everyone in the world free access to the Commission’s data to create their own maps and resources.

Danica grew up in the Philippines and moved to New Zealand when she was 16. She says public access is very different in the Philippines than in NZ.

“It’s not talked about like here in New Zealand, and many areas are more privatised.”

“Every time you want to go to the beach, you pay an entrance fee; you want to go to a park, you pay a fee. You cannot just walk in. And then I moved here. You can go to a nice beach and just see the water. And that was something that I never realised, was like, normal, I guess, and how good it is to have that access.”

Danica and Julian discovered a love of GIS during their shared time at university studying geology.

“Before that, I’d never heard of GIS. I didn’t know it existed,” says Danica. “Initially, I was a bit intimidated by GIS. But everyone else was taking GIS. I just thought, okay, I’ll give it a go. But I ended up really enjoying it.”

Fellow award recipient, Julian, grew up in the Hawke’s Bay region.

“Our doorstep was amazing – big redwoods where you could go mountain biking and exploring and walking. And I guess that informed my outlook,” he says.

Julian and Danica will travel to San Diego this month for the award presentation and Esri Global User Conference. Esri International is the world’s leading provider of GIS software. Esri’s NZ distributor, Eagle Technology, nominated the Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa to receive the global award.

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