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Changes to how we will live in the cities of the future was a recurring theme throughout the three-day Survey and Spatial NZ annual conference

Survey and Spatial conference focuses on the future of communities

Over 350 surveying and spatial professionals gathered recently at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland to hear local and international presenters talk about the future of communities.


Delegates were attending the Survey and Spatial NZ annual conference in May where the theme of Shaping Tomorrow’s Communities gave presenters plenty of scope. Changes to how we will live in the cities of the future was a recurring theme throughout the three-day event, particularly relating to transport and density of housing.

According to several commentators, we can expect less private vehicle ownership with a move to car-sharing and other modes of transportation. An example of this is happening right now around Auckland city with the current explosion of electric scooters. Smarter urban design, better use of city space for pedestrian access and the provision of higher-density housing is also coming.

The theme also generated some thought-provoking and insightful presentations, and conference delegates were not disappointed. Google’s spatial technologist Ed Parson set the tone from the start, describing how autonomous cars, augmented visuals and ambient location are just some of the developments that are going to shape how we live in the future. Based in London, Ed was one of several international speakers invited to give a keynote address at the conference.

The crucial role of spatial professionals

As well as the fascinating Google insights on technology we will see in the future, Vic Crone, CEO of Callaghan Innovation, provided some thought-provoking statistics on mega-trends, including the future of work and business and the research that has been undertaken to get a measure of the country’s preparedness for future innovations.

A common thread through many presentations was the crucial role that surveyors and spatial professionals play alongside others in the construction sector – in residential, industrial and large infrastructure projects. Surveying and spatial professionals, and digital and spatial data all feature heavily in the construction and development sphere; examples, to name a few, included set-out, precision monitoring of tunnel drilling, demolition of buildings on cliff tops after the Canterbury earthquakes, directing mining diggers to the centimetre, planning new subdivision services lay-outs and BIM.

Also featured in many discussions was rapidly developing technology, data collection methods, and how we use that data which is changing so swiftly, in particular the pervasiveness of location data in all aspects of our lives, even though many are not aware of it. The amount of data being collected is growing exponentially and, as yet, we don’t always know how these collections of mass data will be used in the future.

The Auckland City Rail Link featured in several presentations: from the need for precise engineering surveying to the incorporation of art, architecture and culture in the project.

The value of spatial information

Survey and Spatial NZ is the sector’s peak professional organisation in New Zealand, says its president, Rebecca Strang. “We are a stakeholder across a wide range of government policy areas and the sector, including housing development, land subdivision, construction, infrastructure, spatial information and technology, and resource management.

Rebecca Strang, Survey and Spatial NZ president: “The value of spatial information in shaping tomorrow’s communities cannot be underestimated”

“Our members are lead professionals for the delivery of residential developments and subdivisions. They are involved from the beginning of feasibility investigations and concept plan development of our urban communities, often facilitating the planning and resource consent processes and managing the subdivision construction process. They are also instrumental in designing and defining new property rights, from high-rise buildings to underground infrastructure.

“The value of spatial information in shaping tomorrow’s communities cannot be underestimated. It covers all aspects of our lives by enabling better decision-making for communities, not just physical development work. Spatial information helps drives the process of digital engineering, community engagement, developing and managing smart future communities, and improving economic, environmental, health and wellbeing outcomes.”


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