Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) investigation into New Zealand’s bathymetry, the study of underwater depth of lakes or ocean floors


The goal of this investigation was to gain a complete understanding of New Zealand bathymetry to inform the future development and coordination of this fundamental data theme. It involved a stock-take of New Zealand bathymetry, a review of its economic benefits and developing a set of options with recommendations for the strategic direction of bathymetry in New Zealand.

Geographical scope

New Zealand

Non-quantified impacts

Key findings are:

  • The marine environment is an important asset that provides extensive benefits for New Zealand
  • Bathymetric data is information about the morphology of underwater terrain and is derived from measurements of the depth of lakes and oceans. It is a key asset that supports New Zealand’s marine economy
  • The need for, and the use of, bathymetric data in New Zealand is widespread. Sixty-six of the 71 stakeholders that responded to LINZ’s bathymetry questionnaire use bathymetry in their business
  • There are noticeable gaps in the coverage of bathymetric data (even in priority areas) – up to 70% of New Zealand’s waters are not mapped to a high resolution
  • There is a range of sectors in the New Zealand economy where marine spatial data is vital to decision-making. for example:
    • shipping
    • fishing and aquaculture
    • offshore minerals, and
    • government and defence
  • There is little coordination of effort in New Zealand to streamline the acquisition and dissemination of bathymetric data
  • Better coordination of bathymetric data in terms of acquisition and dissemination could have a considerable impact on New Zealand’s marine economy

Quantifiable impacts

  • In 2002 the marine economy contributed NZD 3.3 billion (3% of total GDP) to the total economy (NZD 115 billion)
  • At least NZD 20 million per annum is spent on collecting bathymetric data through hydrographic and bathymetric surveys
  • A review of international literature shows:
    • return on investment for hydrographic services is between 1:3 and 1:9, and
    • return on investment for good bathymetric data provision is between 1:2 and 1:6



Study type

Various methodologies applied

Economy sector

Water, Infrastructure (Transport), Infrastructure (Energy), Public Safety and Security, Disaster Risk Management