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Adding More Information to Maps with GIS

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GIS stands for Geographic Information System. GIS uses software to combine different sets of information as layers on a map.

Layer upon layer

Maps have come a long way since people first began drawings to show where they were. Modern maps are created using special software that combines lots of different information. This system of modern mapping is called GIS – Geographic Information Systems.

GIS allows a variety of information to be recorded and mapped onto a virtual landscape. Data contained in a GIS system is stored in ‘data sets’. Data sets can be selected, combined, and presented as layers, bringing the information to life and giving it greater context:

The system allows the user to view, understand, question, interpret and visualise data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in a variety of mediums.

GIS helps people to:

  • analyse situations
  • write reports
  • track changes
  • make decisions
  • plan, for example which roads are likely to be congested due to road works, closures, or special events.

Learning with GIS

GIS enables new ways of seeing, thinking, and interacting with the world around you. Using GIS in projects helps to develop research skills such as gathering, preparing, storing, and analysing data and presenting the results using a variety of methods.

GIS helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that can help you to become more involved in your community. GIS technology is also being used in an increasing number of industries, so learning to use GIS provides training for many careers.

Audio Māori keywords: 


What info? If you were planning a school camp, what information would you want to see on a GIS map of possible camping locations?

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Tools for Mapping

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Within two hours of the February 22 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, Eagle Technology Ltd had a Christchurch Earthquake Incident Viewer up and running on the internet. This showed the public important information overlaid on to a map. Image: Eagle Technology Ltd.

This map is one of many created as part of the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project. This one shows places where Mahinga kai/traditional food and other natural resources were gathered by their tīpuna. Image: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.