A new award-winning conservation database for Auckland Council
By Amanda MacDonald-Creevey
“Ruru really centralised everything... it’s definitely come a long way from what we had“ – Conservation Advisor
As a unitary authority, Auckland Council plays an important role in protecting and enhancing our native species and ecosystems. In the 10-year Budget 2018-2028, Auckland Council established a Natural Environment Targeted Rate (NETR) to focus additional resource towards achieving natural environmental outcomes. This work is primarily delivered by council and its contractors, as well as an increasing number of community-led initiatives.
No reliable data capture system existed within council to effectively capture this new information, and existing data was fragmented which meant limited capability to report on the delivery and effectiveness of increased funding. Data was in a variety of formats and not always collected in a structured and consistent manner. It was difficult to gain a full understanding of what was happening across the variety of conservation disciplines such as species/ecosystem management, kauri dieback mitigation, and pest animal/plant control. There was a clear requirement to create a consolidated and centralised database to manage spatially integrated conservation information, which needed to service multiple groups and departments within Auckland Council, as well as contractors and other stakeholders.
About the project
There is a distinct lack of consistency in conservation and environmental data management across New Zealand, as highlighted in recent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reports in 2019 and 2021. The project was ambitious in creating a database for conservation information across multiple disciplines and considerable work went into developing the data structure to ensure the system was suitable for multiple workflows across a diverse range of programmes, but also robust enough to evolve with business needs. The development of centralised tables for key information includes a wealth of information including naming conventions from other databases to allow easier data sharing and interoperability. Conservation data standards that promote best practice data management are in the process of being published to allow for easier sharing and adaptability by other organisations.
Ruru – Conservation Information System, first released in October 2020, has been built using the ArcGIS Enterprise platform and uses a variety of applications to create, manage, and analyse spatial data. Mobile (Field Maps, QuickCapture and Survey123) and desktop applications (Web AppBuilder, Dashboards, Experience Builder, Sites) are set up to suit the individual requirements for each programme but also in a way so that the data remains centralised and useful for others. FME and python are used for automated data analysis, connectivity, and updates to maintain system health and ensure ease of use of end-users. For better visibility and understanding across the region, there is connectivity via APIs with external datasets used by other organisations and community groups. Ruru contains almost 80 datasets across a variety of disciplines, and some of the Auckland Council data is publicly available via the Auckland Council GIS viewer GeoMaps, and the Auckland Council Open Data Portal. Currently, there are 390 users from Auckland Council, and 182 users from 32 different contractor companies.
Outcomes and achievements
Conservation data centralisation has multiple benefits including increased collaboration, standardised data capture methods, greater transparency, easier reporting, better environmental understanding across the region, enhanced customer delivery, improved programme management/delivery, and ultimately, better value for ratepayers. Ruru has been successful in winning multiple awards including the 2021 ALGIM Award for GIS Project of the Year, and the 2021 New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award for Environment and Sustainability.
Continued support of existing users/programmes
Data migration and expanded connectivity with additional external datasets
Publication of a conservation spatial data standards document
Improved collaboration and sharing with external stakeholders
Continuous improvement based on user feedback and technological advancements
A short video about Ruru can be viewed here.
Any questions can be directed to project lead, Amanda MacDonald-Creevey: firstname.lastname@example.org