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Adding Information to Maps with GIS

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

This GIS system shows different grades of walking and mountain biking trails in Wellington

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 sorts of information. This system of modern mapping is called GIS – Geographic Information Systems.

GIS is used by organisations, such as the Mountain Safety Council, Rescue Coordination Centre, Life Flight Trust, Police Search and Rescue and City Councils.

GIS allows organisations to;

  • access data
  • combine different data sets together
  • give a visual representation of data.

GIS allows a lot of different information to be shown on one map. Different layers or sets of information can be shown together or separately. GIS gives people a picture of data that allows them to:

  • solve problems
  • write reports
  • track changes
  • make decisions
  • plan for the future e.g. where could new tracks and trails be created?

GIS requires four things:

  1. People: people who use GIS have been trained to use GIS and have made a career out of working with GIS.
  2. Data: geospatial information (where things are located) and the details of objects such as services, roads, buildings etc. are collected and entered into the GIS software.
  3. Software: GIS software analyses data and presents it in different ways for the user.
  4. Hardware: includes handheld devices for collecting data and computers with GIS software to display the GIS.

Data contained in a GIS system is stored in sets of data called ‘data sets’ in a database. Data sets can be selected, combined and presented as layers:

GIS includes layers of information displayed on a map

GIS can be used to help plan outdoor activities by looking at different sets of information all on the one map.

Ready for a quiz? Try the Adding Information to Maps with GIS interactive activity.

An example might be that you want to see a map with walking trails, biking trails, roads, cell phone reception, nearest petrol stations or food outlets. You may also want to see weather information on this map.

It is helpful to see all of this information together and linked to a location.

Audio Māori keywords:

If you were planning a school camp what information would you want to see on a GIS map of possible camping locations and where might you find this information?