Sunday, 5 October 2008

Place name inconsistencies

I've been looking at the "Dataset of New Zealand Geographic Place Names" from LINZ. This appears to be as close as New Zealand comes to an Official list of place names. I've been looking because it would be great to use as an authority in the NZETC.

Coming to the data I was aware of a number of issues:
  1. Unlike most geographical data users, I'm primarily interested in the names rather than the relative positions
  2. New Zealand is currently going through an extended period of renaming of geographic features to their original Māori names
  3. The names in the dataset are primarily map labels and are subject to cartographic licence
What I didn't expect was the insanity in the names. I know that there are some good historical reasons for this insanity, but that doesn't make it any less insane.
  1. Names can differ only by punctuation. There is a "No. 1 Creek" and a "No 1 Creek".
  2. Names can differ only by presentation. There is a "Crook Burn or 8 Mile Creek", an "Eight Mile Creek or Boundary Creek" and an "Eight Mile Creek" (each in a different province).
  3. There is no consistent presentation of alternative names. There is "Saddle (Mangaawai) Bivouac", "Te Towaka Bay (Burnside Bay)", "Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui)", "Manawatawhi/Three Kings Islands", "Mount Hauruia/Bald Rock", "Crook Burn or 8 Mile Creek" and "Omere, Janus or Toby Rock"
  4. There is no machine-readable source of the Māori place names with macrons, and the human readable version has contains subtle difference to the machine-readable database (which contains no non-ASCII characters). For example "Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Glacier)" and "Franz Josef Glacier/Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere" differ by more than the macrons. There appears to be no information on which are authoritative.
Right now I'm find finding this rather frustrating.

(grammar edit)

1 comment:

Gavin Treadgold said...

Make sure to let the Geospatial Office know. They would be in a position to possibly review and get improvements made ;)

Cheers Gav