Government agencies and local authorities have signed up for a private United States satellite service that will provide images of New Zealand clear enough to show every building, road marking and bush.
Under a five-year $5 million deal, the US DigitalGlobe QuickBird Earth observation satellite, which passes over the country every five days, will provide high-resolution digital images. The photos will not be sharp enough to identify people or number plates, but they will be useful for picking out a lot of detail.
The image of central Wellington, right, is taken from the satellite, 450 kilometres above Earth. Users of the service can zoom in to 60 centimetres.
The service will also produce multi-spectral images – pictures taken with red, blue, green or infra-red light that can be used to show different types of vegetation, water currents, soil moisture and ground temperatures.
Defence Force intelligence director Colonel Kevin Arlidge said the KiwImage Project, being run through the Defence Force’s Joint Geospatial Support Facility in Devonport, on Auckland’s North Shore, would provide much better imagery than was available before.
By comparison, Google Earth images available on the Internet were often years out of date and had inaccurate grid references.
Agencies that have signed up include the Defence Force, Fire Service, Land Information New Zealand, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, Kapiti Coast District Council, Auckland Regional Council, GNS Science, Landcare Research, Niwa and Massey and Waikato universities.
Colonel Arlidge said the Defence Force would use the data for training, while the Fire Service was looking to build and maintain a database that would be useful for all emergency services.
Linz was planning to use the images for a new map series and councils were looking to use them for planning.