Friday, 9 January 2009

Excellent stuff from New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa

A while ago, motivated by the need for an authoritative list of New Zealand place names for our with at the NZETC, I criticised the NZGB fairly roundly.
While they haven't produced what I/we want/need, in the last couple of months they've made huge progress in an unambiguously right direction.
Their primary work is the New Zealand Gazetteer of Official Geographic Names, a list of all official place names in New Zealand. It uses have a peculiar definition of "official" (= mentioned in legislation or a Treaty of Waitangi settlement), they have very few names of inhabited places (and no linking with the much larger ones maintained by official bodies such as the police and fire service), They have no elevation data for mountains and pass (which are defined by their height) and they define some things as points when they appear to be areas (such as Arthur Pass National Park), but it's much better than the New Zealand Place Names Database since:
  1. It has a statutory reference for every place, given the source of the officialness of the name
  2. It fully support Macrons
  3. It has a machine readable-list of DoC administered lands --- I can imagine this being used for all sorts of interesting things, getting people out in other scenic and marine reserves.
NZGB sent around an email in which they explicitly addressed some of the points I'd earlier raised (I'm sure I wasn't the only one):
It should be noted that some of the naming practices of the past will have to be lived with, despite inconsistencies. Moving forward, the rules of nomenclature followed by the NZGB are designed to promote standardisation, consistency, and non-ambiguity. The modern format for dual names is '<Maori name> / <non-Maori name', which the NZGB has applied for the past 10 years, though Treaty settlement dual names sometimes deviate from this convention, because the decision is ultimately made by the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. Older forms of dual names, with brackets, will remain depicted as such until changed through the statutory processes of the NZGB Act 2008. These are not generally regarded as alternative names.
Macrons in Maori names have posed problems for electronic databases. Nevertheless they are part of the orthography, recommended by the Maori Language Commission, and the Board endorses their use. The Gazetteer will include macrons where they are formalised as part of the official name. When Section 32 of the new Act comes into force, official documents will be required to show official names, and these will need to include macrons where they have been included as part of the official name (unless the proviso is used). A list of those official names which have macrons is at . LINZ's Customer Services has some solutions for showing macrons in LINZ's own databases and on published maps and charts, and is currently investigating how bulk data extracts might include information about macrons, for the customer's benefit.
Despite the name, it isn't clear in my mind exactly what's official and what isn't. Is the content of the "coordinates" column official? For railway lines this is a reference to the description, which in the cases of railways is usually of the form "From X to Y", where X and Y are place names, frequently place names that aren't on the list, so are thus presumably not official. Unless I'm going blind there is also no indication of accuracy on the physical measurements.