Mapping an ocean reserve at Cloud Break

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Exploring the reef below Cloud Break. Photo: Anne Harper.

Exploring the reef at Cloud Break. Photo: Anne Harper.

At the end of April, Koordinates Customer Experience Manager Anne Harper travelled to Fiji to help map out the new Kurukuru Ocean Reserve – a reserve around the world famous Cloud Break.

Working with an all-volunteer team, Anne spent the week wrangling geospatial data in QGIS, working with local stakeholders, and diving in the gorgeous coral reefs.

Like others working on spatial projects around the world, Anne had her challenges in finding, accessing and using the data she needed. But her story is also a fascinating example of the sorts of projects that can be enabled when we solve the problem of making data more accessible.

We chatted with Anne to learn more about her amazing week.

For those of us that don’t surf, what is Cloud Break?

Cloud Break is a super famous, world class, top-ten globally rated surf break. Visitors come from all over the world to visit Fiji to surf this break, so the energy and excitement in the area is absolutely amazing.

In Fijian, Cloud Break is known as kurukuru mai lagi – or thundercloud. When the wave gets proper big, a cloud hangs over that can be seen for miles!

Cloud Break, or kurukuru mai lagi. Photo: Anne Harper.

What else is special about Cloud Break?

The waves break on a coral reef. It’s the shape of the reef, combined with the climate and currents, that create these incredible waves. Coral is a living structure, providing habitat and nutrients – which in turn result in a diverse ecosystem. Hence all the beautiful reef fish (and all the divers and snorkelers).

The key word here is ecosystem: the coral, fish and waters are all interdependent. We want to keep that system strong, healthy and resilient.

The area is also really important for the local economy, with twenty operators helping surfers, snorkelers, divers and ocean lovers enjoy the environment.

So what exactly were you doing over there?

The team was made up of enthusiastic volunteers: Sam Judd from Sustainable Coastlines, Ian Muller from Surf Fiji, Tammie Leong from Media Design School – and myself, from Koordinates!

We were working to define the boundaries of a proposed ocean reserve, meet with key agency stakeholders and find datasets to help us design the boundary – such as submerged reefs that you cannot see from imagery, existing reserve boundaries and biodiversity information.

Captiony caption

Anne working to define the boundaries of the ocean reserve. Photo: Anne Harper.

Why is this work so important?

The reef is fragile, and it – along with the existing marine life – needs to be able to respond to what we’ve called shocks and stressors.

Potential shocks include coral bleaching and cyclones. Cyclone Winston, a recent category 5 Hurricane that slammed Fiji, and was stronger than anything the country had seen before. Stressors on reefs include El Niño, overfishing and tourism. Boats visiting the area also drop anchors if there are no moorings.

To make this reef strong, healthy and resilient, we need to protect and improve existing biodiversity. And this is why we’re working to create this reserve.  

This reef is also key for the Fijian surfing economy. Tourism brings in 37% of Fiji’s GDP, so it is critical for the local economy that it is well managed and healthy.

How important was data to the project?

At the early stages on a project like this, it’s critical to define a boundary of the proposed reserve to show stakeholders where and what we are talking about. 

Defining the boundary can be difficult to do – though we were lucky to find an atlas for marine protected areasWith this data we soon found there were two massive marine reserves close by! This was incredible, as locals to the area didn’t actually know the reserves existed – which meant they were still being used for commercial and local fishing.

Wow – how come the locals didn’t know about the existing reserves?

They hadn’t been told!  No one in the area seemed to know about them – and they definitely didn’t have access to the data showing where the reserves were.

In fact, the data had been published was in a proprietary GIS format. To use it you need to have the skills, software and knowledge and a reason to download a GIS dataset of global marine protected area (MPA) boundaries. And obviously, for most people, this is all pretty unlikely.

This information helped us realise that the local conservation and government agencies needed help with a management framework. Uncovering this altered the course of our project, which grew from defining the reserve boundary to a wider funding and framework approach. We already knew a funding model and management framework were important – but now we had hard evidence.

It sounds like the locals had some concerns about the reserves?

It was definitely a concern to them. There was a concern that, by restricting fishing in such a large area, the reserve would seriously impact their lifestyle, economy and food source. Fishing is a critical food source, and is also really important to the local culture.

The good thing about marine reserves is that they can actually lead to more fish in surrounding areas – that is, they can boost other fishing spots. This is because either fish swim out or have lots of fish babies that swim away.

We can leave these other areas as non-reserve so locals can still have great spots to fish the spillover. We can also advocate for funding to support new initiatives in the local economy. It’s only right that, if locals give up their fishing rights, they should be paid.

The team launching a drone to gather data for the ocean reserve. Photo: Anne Harper

The team launching a drone to gather data for the ocean reserve. Photo: Anne Harper

What other datasets did you use?

The other key dataset we sourced was from the Fijian Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources. They kindly gave us a reefs and locality dataset. This dataset showed us where the submerged reefs lay so we could clearly delineate where the outer boundary could go.

Before we had access to this data, we had reefs half in and half out of the reserve – and this would obviously be confusing for anyone fishing in the area. Using this dataset, we adjusted the boundary to include all of the reef.

What are you going to do with the framework for the reserve?

We believe in open and accessible data, we will share our marine framework IP and are using open source software QGIS. The imagery we used is from Bing basemap.

What’s next for the project? Anymore trips to Fiji on the horizon?

The local agencies involved are working really hard and want these reserve to flourish, but don’t have the tools. Our team is helping to create a management framework and funding model to ensure this marine protection works. We’re also figuring out how other technologies might support the reserve, including drones and apps to report illegal fishing. Most importantly, we’re helping with stakeholder engagement and training.

I would love to get back to Fiji soon (pending leave approval of course). Wonderful people and incredible waters! Future visits will involve talking to stakeholders further about the technology and datasets that can help form this framework…and, of course, spending time in the ocean!

Welcoming the Geospatial Research Institute

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Geospatial Research Institute opening ceremony Staff and Students George Buchanan, Dr Gun Lee, Assoc Prof Richard Green, Paul Bealing demonstrate their research to Minister Upston.

Staff and Students George Buchanan, Dr Gun Lee, Assoc Prof Richard Green, Paul Bealing demonstrate their research to Minister Upston.

As a technology platform that facilitates interaction around geospatial data, we have the privilege of seeing a lot of brilliant innovation. From software applications like the National Broadband Map and TracMap, to infrastructure projects, scientific research and so much more.

It’s worth underlining just how important this sort of collaboration can be. Fundamentally, geospatial research is about Earth – our single greatest asset – and the data it produces has the capacity to materially transform the way we live.

This might sound like an exaggeration, but the broad application of geospatial data is undeniable. All the engineers building infrastructure, architects designing subdivisions, scientists researching the environment – and software developers building apps helping us to navigate the world around us. Each of these professions relies on geospatial data and the projects they deliver have a fundamental impact on all of us.

So we were excited at the announcement last week of a new example of collaboration in the geospatial sector. The University of Canterbury’s Geospatial Research Institute, launched on 26 April by Land Information Minister Upston, has been labelled a hub of geospatial research and innovation.

Minister Louise Upston, Chancellor John Wood, Vice Chancellor Rod Carr, Simon Kingham, Rawiri Te Maire Tau, Wendy Lawson, Dr Peter Woodgate, Colin MacDonald.

Minister Louise Upston, Chancellor John Wood, Vice Chancellor Rod Carr, Simon Kingham, Rawiri Te Maire Tau, Wendy Lawson, Dr Peter Woodgate, Colin MacDonald.

Simon Kingham, the Director of the new GRI and Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury, describes the Institute as a way to connect “academia, geospatial organisations, research institutes, private industry and government.”

The Institute, Kingham says, will “provide a national centre of gravity for geospatial research that enables New Zealand to more fully realise the benefits of spatial information technology.”

This is a noble mission – and the timing of the launch of the Institute couldn’t be better. In the past, the potential of collaborative research and innovation in geospatial data has been held back by a prohibitive copyright framework, limited technologies and a lack of profile.

In fact, until recently, geospatial data was distributed under restrictive licences and formats via DVDs and hard-drives – limiting its use to expensive, proprietary desktop software packages by certified specialists. Arguably, this is still the case in much of the industry.

This has made it restrictive (and expensive) for professionals to collaborate and use geospatial data as freely as they would like; citizens have been almost locked out entirely.

The good news is that the industry is changing. We’re seeing organisations like Land Information New Zealand, Landcare Research, the Ministry for the Environment and others publishing their authoritative data in a way that makes it simple for everyone to find, appraise and access in the delivery method they want (download, web service or others) and in the formats they need.

The Koordinates platform itself has over 30,000 users across the various data services – a good indication of the demand for authoritative geospatial data. But in a country where private companies, government and research institutes are building a solid track record of working together to deliver world-leading innovation, we believe there is much more to do.

Initiatives like the Geospatial Research Institute promise to push the boundaries of the geospatial industry, and we hope to see many more such examples of collaboration in the future. With projects involving smart cities, hazard management, primary production processes and the natural environment, the potential benefit to New Zealand is significant.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results as the institute gets up and running.

We’re Hiring a Web Application Developer

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Applications for this position have now closed.

April 2016 / Auckland

Koordinates is changing the way Earth’s data is published and accessed. Our data platform brings publishers and users of data together in the cloud. We provide functionality that removes the friction of publishing and accessing complex spatial datasets, ensuring Earth’s rich data is available to those who need it. At Koordinates, we value being open, precise, intrepid and connected.

If you have a track record of delivering high quality code for scalable web applications, now is the perfect time to join Koordinates and shape the future of our product and our team.

What you’ll be doing:

Our platform is primarily built on Python, Django and PostgreSQL, hosted in Linux environments on AWS. You’ll be:

  • Working with our team of designers, engineers, testers and support staff to scope, plan and deliver new features to our clients and their end-users.
  • Continually improving, optimising and enhancing core Koordinates platform services.
  • Assisting in the delivery of internal devops and support tooling.

Who we are looking for:

  • You’re an experienced Python developer (5+ years commercial software experience, 2+ years with Python) with a strong product focus. You have evolved and improved products over time and are capable of architecting complex software solutions.
  • You’ve worked with distributed systems, and are familiar with or have implemented: message queues; analytics; search; testing frameworks; APIs; and build/deployment/development tools.
  • You’re an independent and versatile developer, with the ability to pick up different languages, frameworks and techniques with relative ease.
  • Your positive attitude, respect for your peers and your excellent verbal and written communication skills make you great at collaborating with your team.

It would be great if you have:

  • Experience working with cloud infrastructure platforms (AWS), configuration management software, Build/CI tools, Docker and Linux (Ubuntu) environments.
  • Knowledge of Django (or a similar web framework) and have worked with complex Web UIs and frameworks, SQL (PostgreSQL) and RESTful APIs.
  • Practical experience with at least one other language (NodeJS, Java, C++).
  • Experience with spatial data, mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Why Koordinates?

Koordinates is a great place to work. We are situated over three locations and two time zones, so we’re used to working in a distributed and flexible environment. We ship code daily, our continuous integration systems ensure that our build & test processes happen on every push to GitHub, and passing builds are a single click to deploy. We provide you with the tools, training and support you need to deliver the highest quality software to our clients and end-users.

We’re proud to build an award-winning platform and we’re expanding to introduce our product to the world. As an experienced software engineer, you will be ideally placed to shape your career and share in our success.

Get in touch today at

We’re Hiring a Quality Assurance Engineer

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April 2016 / Auckland

Koordinates is changing the way Earth’s data is published and accessed. Our data platform brings publishers and users of data together in the cloud. We provide functionality that removes the friction of publishing and accessing complex spatial datasets, ensuring Earth’s rich data is available to those who need it. At Koordinates, we value being open, precise, intrepid and connected.

What we’re looking for

We’re looking for an individual who can grow best-practice testing and quality assurance across Koordinates, and take ownership from requirements through to production. If you’re a tester after a new challenge, now’s the perfect time to join Koordinates and help influence the future of the product and the team.

You will help us automate QA and create end-to-end testing for new features. We will rely on you to help us evaluate tools and evolve best practices for tracking quality, code coverage, load testing, and performance analysis.

Our platform is primarily built on Python and PostgreSQL, with hosting on Linux instances in AWS. We use Ansible for configuration management and release automation. Many of our unit tests and integration tests are driven through nose and unittest2.

What you’ll be doing

  • Hands-on role designing, developing, and delivering QA within Koordinates. This means creating test strategies, plans, and test cases to ensure software changes made to our platforms are of the quality needed to maintain data integrity, performance, and usability.
  • Working with developers to plan testing and improve the product development approach.
  • Expanding and improving our existing test automation to increase coverage and provide better results. Researching, designing, and implementing new approaches to unit, regression, and integration testing.
  • Working with the design and product development teams to create UI testing systems and processes.
  • Developing performance measurement and benchmarking tools and approaches, then incorporating them into production systems and development processes.
  • Working with support to investigate complex problems and determine customer impacts.

You’ll need:

  • A strong passion for testing software, and the attention to detail and problem solving that entails.
  • At least 3 years commercial software engineering experience, working on web/cloud/API products.
  • Extensive experience with automated testing (unit, integration, UI).
  • Experience with measurement, metrics, and reporting, and understanding of the underlying statistics.
  • Experience with OWASP security best practices.
  • Experience in Python, our primary programming language.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • To be able to self-manage your tasks, time, and expectations within the team.

It would be great (but not necessary) if you are:

    • Comfortable working in a Linux (Ubuntu) environment.
    • Familiar with geospatial data or software.
    • Familiar with AWS and dynamic infrastructure.

Why Koordinates?

Koordinates is a great place to work. While this role will be based in Auckland, our team is distributed over 3 sites and 2 time-zones. We ship code daily, we support flexible working arrangements and we provide you with the tools, training and support you need to deliver the highest quality experience to our clients and end-users.

We’re proud to build award-winning software. Now we’re expanding to introduce our product to the world. As our first dedicated QA Engineer, you will be well placed to grow your career and share in our success.

Get in touch today at

Introducing Matt, Education Manager

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Hi, I’m Matt – I’m the Education Manager at Koordinates.

While I’ve only just joined full-time, I’ve actually been working with Koordinates for a while now. Beginning in June last year, I’ve been contracting with Koordinates to build a repository of user guides, to make it easier for people to get started on the platform.  

The ‘Education’ title suggests the ambition we have at Koordinates, which is support organisations as they reshape how they publish and use data. As the industry changes, we want to make it much easier to access and use data, because we believe that this will lead to better social, economic and environmental outcomes.

At present, it can be difficult for people to get access to the data they need. On the one hand, they may not even know the data exists; if they know it exists, it can take some time to access it; if they can access it, it might not be in the formats they need. These problems are difficult for data professionals to solve – for non-technical users, they are often insurmountable.

Put another way, though, this can be seen as an extraordinary opportunity. By getting the world’s data in one place, on an intelligent, user-friendly platform, we can change the way we think about – and ultimately shape – our planet.

With the rise of cloud technology, the industry is changing, and data users are going to need professional development to make the most of these new opportunities. Koordinates is uniquely placed to help provide this professional development, to enable a new era of data publishing.

My job, then, will be to make it as easy as possible for publishers to share their data – either privately or openly – and help educate folks on how they can use Koordinates to find, access, appraise and use more data. This will involve creating an extensive and detailed library of user guides and documentation on the Koordinates platform, alongside a range of introductory training materials.

I’ll be building on my experience at Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand an organisation that provides the licences used by the majority of New Zealand’s open data, which I led from 2012 – 2016. In that role, I provided training and resources to support the release of open culture and knowledge in organisations across New Zealand, including universities, schools, libraries and public agencies.

On that note, another aspect of my job will be to bring more data publishers on board. I’m particularly excited to work with the research sector to unlock the massive amount of spatial data that is currently either locked away or lost (according to a 2013 study in Current Biology, over 80% of research data are lost within two decades of research paper publication).  

By opening up this data, the research community can provide a rich new source for data users and ensuring that researchers can build on existing data, rather than starting from scratch.

So, there’s plenty to get on with! While I get stuck in creating and updating our educational resources, I’ll pop up on the blog from time to time to share what we’re up to. I look forward to meeting more of our users in the months ahead.

Hi I’m Anne – Customer Experience Manager

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It’s day 12 for me at Koordinates so I thought it’s time I introduced myself.

My role at Koordinates is to help our customers and users get the most out of the platform, whether they’re publishing data or accessing it. This includes technical pre-sales and training, managing Koordinates Support, building our internal processes to scale as we grow, and working closely with our Design, Education and Marketing teams to keep the customer voice front and centre.

I’m a huge believer in the power of spatial information. By unlocking this data from the database silos it lives in we can free up spatial professionals to focus their expertise on delivering meaningful intelligence to their businesses rather than getting stuck doing standard IT support functions. Reliable access to high quality datasets helps people make informed decisions that have a positive social, environmental and economic impact on our planet.

I’ve had 14 years in the spatial industry, using GIS to help a wide range of people and businesses across the globe, from remote sensing at Terralink to conservation work at the Department of Conservation. Most recently I’ve moved into the business world through geomarketing at Esri UK and Critchlow, helping businesses target their customers with a spatial lens.

Helping to grow the spatial industry is really important to us all as spatial information is central to helping make business and the broader economy thrive. To this extent I take an active role as an Executive Committee Member of SIBA (Spatial Industry Business Association) whose mandate it is to grow spatial in New Zealand.

When I’m not in the office you’ll find me diving, hiking and playing in New Zealand’s great outdoors. The spatial world collides with my passion for the outdoors through the volunteer work I’m doing on both the Hihi recovery program on Kāpiti Island and a marine reserve project in Fiji.

I’m looking forward to working with everyone in the Koordinates ecosystem and sharing my passion for spatial modelling and the impact it can have.

So now you know all about me I can’t wait to meet you and others using Koordinates to help everyone get the most out of working with spatial data in your organisation.

Welcome Statistics NZ!

Statistics NZ recently launched the prototype of their data service on the Koordinates platform, with a view to making their statistical data more easily consumable for users.

The Statistics NZ Geospatial team releases statistical boundaries on an annual basis for a variety of users including private sector companies, academic researchers, other government agencies and many more. The boundaries include Meshblocks, Area Units, Territorial Authorities, Regional Councils, Community Boards, Urban Areas, Wards, Constituency and Maori Constituency boundaries.

In previous years these files have been released as a downloadable zip file on the Statistics NZ website. Moving to the data service powered by Koordinates will allow these datasets to be more readily appraised and accessed by users. The initial launch includes the Meshblock dataset from Census 2013.

As we see momentum building amongst Government agencies wanting to make their data more accessible, there’s an accompanying drive for openness and trust amongst the people behind these projects. Statistics NZ Senior Researcher, Eli Chadwick oversaw implementation of the new data service and shared his views:

“Putting the power in the hands of our customers to get the data they want in the format they want will significantly reduce the overhead required to manually service custom data requests as well as introducing services that were previously not possible. It gives Statistics NZ a valuable method for data transmission that has never previously existed.”

Improving data access is a key building block in the pursuit of economic, environmental and social prosperity, so we’re excited to have an agency of the calibre of Statistics NZ helping make New Zealand a better place.

Getting what you want – even when it’s not in the box

We almost didn’t share this blog post. Contract R&D has been a heavily debated topic in the Koordinates office lately and one we weren’t sure was ready for the public domain. But ultimately the sentiment behind sharing the discussion is the same for doing contract R&D in the first place – enterprise software should be a partnership between customers and vendors. So in the name of sharing, here it is.

Software vendors often provide a number of levers and additional services for organisations to use as they launch new software and transition from a ‘new project’ basis to ‘business as usual’. These range from professional services such as needs analysis and training through to SLA’s for ongoing assurance around business critical services and integrations.

A key lever we discovered early on working with enterprise customers in the data publishing game was contract R&D, which gives customers the ability to get what they want from the product, even if it wasn’t originally ‘in the box’

Blog - Out Of The Box

Contract R&D in the software world simply means a customer pays the software vendor to develop a specific feature they want, ahead of where it might have otherwise been delivered on the product roadmap. This differs from the process of taking customer feedback through user sessions and support requests to help guide the roadmap, as that tends to be more an aggregated market view (and should be a standard input into any product roadmap) than a specific customer request.

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The changing economics of data publishing and sharing

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Silicon Valley and other hot spots of innovation have produced a number of disruptive technologies over the years. They provide important reference points for long-standing, traditional industries yet to experience the quantum shift in effectiveness that comes from disruption.

Cloud technology naturally lends itself to solving the problem of connectivity. And there are plenty of industries that have been transformed through greater connectivity – from consumer plays like Google, Facebook, Airbnb, eBay and most recently Uber, as well as business platforms like Xero for small business and LinkedIn for recruiting.

Blog - Changes To Data Publishing

Examples of cloud disruption vary, but when it comes to the concept of connectivity, the approach and fundamentals are mostly uniform. An oversimplified way to sum it up would be:

Using the collaborative nature of cloud technology to bring otherwise disconnected or fragmented markets together around a real-world common purpose.

Data relating to earth, whether it’s geospatial by nature or can be ‘spatialised’ has been a slow sector to move on the cloud front, as elegantly handling large, complex geospatial datasets online is a difficult problem to solve. But the wheels of innovation are moving quickly, with broadband speeds, browser technology and cloud hosting services coming together to create an opportunity to redefine how data flows.

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New Zealand National Broadband Map

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Access to high speed internet is a catalyst for making life better wherever you live. So we love that the team at NZRS have leveraged our technology as part of a handy tool that lets you quickly and easily find out what type of internet connection you’re able to get in New Zealand.

Launched yesterday by the Minister for Communications, Hon Amy Adams, the National Broadband Map allows you to enter your address and get an instant view of the different internet connection types available (or planned) in your area – including fibre, fixed line and wireless.

Amy AdamsPhoto credit: Sebastian Castro/NZRS
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