Today is my last day working for Eagle Technology Group, the Esri Distributor in New Zealand and the South Pacific. A special thank you to Scott Campbell & Graeme Henderson for the opportunity and team members Lauren McArtney, Sam Williamson, and Ed Cook for the great team work on the Eagle Tech Solutions Team. Here is a quick overview of the last two years from my perspective.
What was planned...My position title was "Senior GIS Consultant" and my job description was to design solutions for new and existing Esri customers. This position was going to be an opportunity to work more broadly across the GIS industry including commercial, energy, natural resources, local government, etc. I was also hoping to volunteer with some local search and rescue teams to "return to my roots".
What actually happened... I spent 99% of my time working with government agencies and lifleline utilities to increase their use of geospatial tools in emergency management and other areas of public safety. The Tangaroa Exercise in August 2016 and Kaikoura Earthquake of 2017 (The Science behind the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake) made it very clear that the emergency management industry could use some direct support. Keep in mind, there is not a single GIS professional with emergency management in their job title at the time of writing this post. Emergency management is largely a local government responsibility and the local GIS professionals either volunteer their time or are seconded during emergencies to support the incident.
Because of this, Duane Eagle and the management at Eagle Tech agreed to provide 4 free GIS for Emergency Management Workshops. At these events, we provided free training and a forum to discuss the use of geospatial in emergency management. Out of this - a group of passionate GIS professionals and emergency management professionals formed the New Zealand GIS for Emergency Management Group.
What went well... The NZGIS4EM has formed and is going strong. Every Regional Council in New Zealand has introduced new geospatial tools to their emergency management teams and many of them have begun to deploy these during disasters and business as usual. In the process I have met some amazing people who are dedicated to their communities and are making progress every day. We have prescribed an initial operating capability and provided tools to implement this concept (NZGIS4EM Training Website). We have also formed a great relationship with RadioNZ to share public information maps during disasters.
Not so well...The effectiveness of geospatial tools is not yet fully realised in NZ, especially at the Executive level of local and national government. There is still a large focus on generating static "situation reports" and ad-hoc crisis information management systems that are designed for sharing documents rather than situational awareness. I feel I could have done a better job presenting the Geospatial Concept of Operations to leaders in New Zealand to change their perception of GIS. However, the NZGIS4EM Community has demonstrated value and are being recognized by emergency managers. Furthermore, leaders at the National level have been listening and will be attending the inaugural NZGIS4EM Meeting next week and I hope they can see the value in this community. The NZGIS4EM can play a major role in addressing the Ministerial Review: Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies in New Zealand.
Going forward... I plan to continue the relationship (and many friendships) with the NZGIS4EM in my new role at NAPSG Foundation. A good place to start is with a Virtual Training / webinar to share some of the great progress made here in New Zealand with the Damage Assessment framework and geospatial coordination. Stay tuned... I have no doubt that New Zealand can forge the way ahead and have a productive knowledge exchange with EMSINA and NAPSG Foundation. I am moving back to the US (Boulder, Colorado) March 20th and will jump right into supporting my new team at NAPSG with Flood Preparedness Exercises. I'll still be active on my NAPSG Foundation Geonet Paul Doherty
Here is a time enabled map of NZGIS4EM membership and how it has grown since February 2017.