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A crowd sourced nationally significant hazard dataset – an opportunity for councils to contribute?

Earthquakes in New Zealand may have had a devastating effect on the Canterbury region in 2010 and 2011 but it has led to a new era of geotechnical data sharing.

Councils, utility and infrastructure companies can increasingly benefit in this sharing. Read on to find out about this opportunity and decide whether your council might want to sign up to contribute data.

When the first earthquake struck Canterbury in New Zealand September 2010 there was shock at the scale of the damage and the geotechnical challenge of recovery soon became apparent. To help aid the work, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) established the Canterbury Geotechnical Database (CGD) to bring available geotechnical data together in one system. This database has now transitioned to the NZ Geotechnical Database (NZGD).

Seven years on, the spirit of collaboration born out of a crisis, has led to the transition of the CGD to the NZ Geotechnical Database (NZGD) currently co-funded by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

“Once set up, the more challenging bit initially was seeding the database with enough data to encourage use by consultants and clients outside of Canterbury who were not involved in the rebuild and therefore had not seen the advantages of sharing information. They saw the information they held as their competitive advantage which initially limited their enthusiasm to share data.”

This barrier has now been overcome in part because several territorial authorities and large utility organisations have started to progressively transfer historic information over to NZGD and are now requiring consultants to upload new information. The consultants have progressively become on board as they saw the advantages that being a smart data user of a larger dataset outweighed the advantages of hoarding a smaller dataset that they controlled (bit did not own).

The database now holds around NZ$500M worth of data and is growing steadily.

Benefits of the database are emerging. “The system includes more accurate liquefaction related insurance loss modelling estimates of Wellington and other areas during a future earthquake.” says John. “With a more detailed understanding of losses, re-insurance premiums are actually lowered as the uncertainty around the possible ranges of losses is reduced.

“The data also allows more accurate hazard maps as there is better access to base data and less need to rely on geology maps which as not sufficiently granular in many case. This information in turn feeds into a better understanding of the most vulnerable assets such as brittle pipes situated in the most vulnerable ground and therefore informs resilience planning.

“There is also more efficient archiving and retrieval of data that reduces risks associated with loss of corporate and institutional knowledge associated with long serving individuals.

“Lower site investigation costs are also being achieved in some cases as consultants can access nearby data and therefore need less new information to confirm site subsurface models.”

The magic and unique aspect of the system is not in the technology but that the private and public sectors are now actively sharing and contributing geotechnical information which has created a win win situation for all involved. The more organisations sharing data the more benefits realised. The dataset is internationally recognised and is referenced in many research papers.

Many councils, utility and infrastructure companies have already formally signed up to contribute data and we are looking to add to this list of contributors progressively. Those wishing to access the database can apply to be a user by clicking this link.

If there are any queries regarding this dataset don’t hesitate to contact John on

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