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May 19th, 2011
LINZ – Mourning Our Loss: Geoff Howard

In 1973 Geoff joined the sector working at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) as a Draughting Cadet straight from school, then moved to the Department of Land and Survey as a Cartographer in 1979.

In 1986 Geoff received a scholarship to attend the International Institute for Aerospace, Survey, and Earth Sciences (ITC) in the Netherlands where he earned a Technologist Diploma in Cartography.

Returning to the renamed Department of Survey and Land Information (DOSLI), Geoff started the map database digitisation programme, using what he had learned at ITC as well as his own vision to bring it into the operational environment.

Geoff was appointed General Manager for Topography and Hydrography when LINZ was established in 1996, then became General Manager Contracts when the Contracts Group was formed where he negotiated the first service contracts for LINZ. In 2005, Geoff worked on developing the Specialist Processing and Data Management (SPDM) structure, bringing together Topography, Geodesy, and Hydrography into one team. Following this he was appointed to the role of Manager SPDM.

Geoff became LINZ’s Chief Topographer in 2010 and served on the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) for the past two years.

As anyone who knew him can attest, Geoff was passionate about topography and cartography. Some of the achievements Geoff was proudest of include digitising the Topo 1:250,000 database in 1987, which was among the first of its kind in the world. In 2009 the launch of the Topo 50 map series marked the fulfilment of Geoff’s vision that began 18 years earlier.

I can attest that since I assumed my role early last year, Geoff was keen to engage with the NZ Geospatial Office and through his role at LINZ, support our strategy and goals.  It was Geoff, for instance, that stepped up to assume a stewardship role for a national imagery dataset.  In this regard he and I had many interesting discussions, especially about the idea of an authoritative source for data in the new world of crowd-sourcing.  

Geoff is survived by his wife, Debbie, and their sons Justin and Daniel. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues here at LINZ, and by the topographic, cartographic and wider geospatial communities, both in New Zealand and around the world.