Getting Started

Welcome to Our Environment

Our Environment is an interactive map viewer for New Zealand environmental information. With this website you can explore cartographic depictions of many different layers of environmental data, get information about particular environmental features, access other data resources and print high-quality maps. This guide will introduce you to the basics of using this free service. (Go to the Frequently Asked Questions page (FAQ) to read answers to specific questions about the website and which browsers the site works in.)

Warning: Some features are not available when Our Environment is used on tablets or mobile phones.

Create your map

The Our Environment website features many different types of environmental information. Clicking on the Create a map button on the home page or the Map tab will take you to a page where you can select the sorts of information you are interested in. Tick every box that corresponds to something you are interested in and then press the blue button at the top of the screen to view the maps.

As an alternative to the question based issues page, you can view the data as a content listing. Click on the Content View icon to switch to the content listing page.  As well as the data layers and classes, the content view lists the source of each data layer and what information can be viewed using the Feature Information facility in the mapping application. Click on the icon or a link to go straight to a map of that topic. Alternatively, to view maps of a number of topics, tick the topics of interest to you and then click the blue button at the top of this page.

Image of map application screen
  1. Set map mode - Switch between navigation, zoom box and feature information. Learn more.
  2. Set map scale - Zoom in and out by changing the map's cartographic scale.
  3. Print current map - Open the print window to create a custom PDF. Learn more.
  4. Location search - Search for a particular location using a placename, address or geographic coordinates. Learn more.
  5. Layer metadata - Displays information about the selected map layer. Learn more.
  6. Control which layer is drawn - Tick check boxes to turn layers on or off. Click layer name to view Layer information. Learn more.
  7. Layer transparency - Alter the transparency of the science layers. Learn more.
  8. Legend details - Displays a map key.
  9. Overview map - Shows the larger geographic context of your area of interest. Learn more.
  10. Select basemap - Select an underlying basemap.
  11. Reporting - Use the area reporting tool. Learn more.
  12. Obtain data - Go a website where you can obtain the data being viewed in the map. Learn more.


Control the map

To move around the map, select the 'Navigate' button in the map toolbar (1). Click and drag the map to pan to another location. Double-click to zoom in closer.

To view more or less map detail, use the zoom functions (1). To zoom to a particular portion of the map, click on the Zoom Box icon in the top bar. Then go to the area on the map you want to zoom into, and click and hold the mouse button down (the pointer will change to a crosshair). Drag out a box covering the area you are interested in. Release the mouse button. After releasing the mouse button, the map will automatically zoom to the area that was selected. If needed, you can repeat the same steps to zoom further into an area.

You can also zoom in closer by moving the mouse to the area you are interest in and double-clicking. You can also use your mouse's scroll wheel to zoom in and out. Finally, to zoom to a particular scale e.g., 1:25,000, select a scale from the scale drop down menu (2).

To move quickly to a particular part of the country, use the Overview map (9). The Overview map shows you your current location on a smaller scale map. You can move the current map view to another location by clicking and dragging the small crosshair or dotted box. To hide the overview map, click on the minus (-) button to the right of the overview map.

Finding a particular place.

If you are looking for a particular place, the quickest way to find it is to use the Location Search tool. The Location Search tool has 3 modes. You can search using the name of a place (the default), an address or coordinates.

To search using a place name

To search using an address

To search using coordinates

In all cases, the place you are looking for is shown on the map by a red flashing dot.

Viewing map layers

You can view the map layers you previously selected using the Layers panel on the left (6).

Make sure the Layers panel is expanded by clicking on the icon  Show panel. Tick a box to view the layer on the map. Tick another box to view another layer. Only one layer can be viewed at a time on the map. However, you can select specific features (classes) within a layer to view on the map.

View more information about a particular location

Use the Feature Information facility to view more information from a layer for a particular location. Make sure you have a layer visible on the map (see Viewing Map Layers). Select the Feature Information icon on the top bar (1) and then click the point on the map you are interested in. After a moment or two, a pop up window will appear (labelled 'Feature Information') displaying various items of information relating to the map layer you currently have selected. The area you selected is highlighted.

Close a popup window by clicking on the  Close popup in the top right corner.

You can have multiple popup windows open at once. To keep a pop-up window visible, click on the pin icon in the top right corner of the window. With Feature Information selected, just click on the other points on the map you are interested in.

Learning more about a map layer

On the right hand side of the map there is an information panel. By default this displays background information about the layer (Layer metadata (5)) and further details about particular features (classes) making up a layer (Legend details (7)). To view this information, click on a layer in the Layer panel (6). The active layer will be highlighted.

Printing a map

Use the Print facility (3) to create printable PDF maps in A4 and A3 size, in portrait or landscape layout and at various map scales.

Note: The time it takes to create the PDF file will vary depending upon the complexity, size and scale of the map. You may have to wait a couple of minutes for the file to be created and downloaded. Depending on how your computer is set up, you will either be able to view the PDF file directly or save it on to your computer.

More advanced uses


Altering the transparency of a map layer

You can use the Layer Transparency slider (7) to vary the transparency of a layer. This allows you to gradually fade-in/fade-out the layer against the basemap. This feature does not work in certain versions of Internet Explorer.

Changing the underlying base map

By default, map layers are shown on top of a topographic map. However, some map layers are easier to read on top of alternative base maps (e.g. "monochrome topographic"). You can change the basemap by selecting a different base map in the Layer panel (10).

Resetting the map back to a national extent

At any time you can click on the globe icon on the top bar to reset the map extent back to the whole of New Zealand.

Returning to a previous map view

Use the back arrow in the toolbar to see the maps you were looking at previously.

Maximise the size of the map you can see on the screen

You can hide the left and right information panels, thus increasing the size of the map you can see on the screen. To do this, click on the Toggle sidepanels icon on the top bar. Clicking on this icon again, opens both panels.

Use the 'Toggle full screen' button in the top menu bar of the mapping application. Alternatively, you can also use the F11 key. There is more information about using the F11 key on the FAQ.

Adding other map layers to the mapping tool or to start again

To add other maps layers to the map viewer or start again, click on the 'Start Again' button on the top right of the map viewer application.

The Report tool

You can obtain an indication of the area of each feature (class) in a selected layer for the current map using the reporting feature (11). You can obtain reports either for the whole of the map currently being viewed or for an area you define (draw) on the map.

Make sure the information panel on the right hand side of the map is open and a layer is displayed on the map. Click on the 'Report' button.

By default, a report is produced for the current map extent Map Extent Report icon. After a moment or two the area values for the layer will be displayed. (The larger the geographic extent of the map, the longer it will take for the areas to be calculated and displayed. In some cases, because of the complexity of the underlying data, the Report tool will not work if the map is displaying a very large geographic extent.)

Select the User defined extent report icon icon to create a report for an area you define on the map. You can then use the mouse to draw an area on the map. 

Select the Remove area on map icon icon to remove the area you have drawn on the map.

Select the Map Extent Report icon to switch back to creating a report for the current map extent.

The default report view is a table. Select the icon to view the areas using a variety of different data visualizations - pie charts, bar graphs, treemaps and bubble charts. The visualizations are displayed in a separate pop up window.  Note that the types of visualization available can vary between layers.

The area values displayed are NOT updated if you pan or zoom to another location or change the map layer. You will need to select the 'Update Report' button to refresh the display. 

For some layers we cannot calculate the area.

Obtain Data

We provide a link in the Layer metadata if the data used to produce a map layer is available for downloading. If you click on the link, the relevant page from the website hosting the data will appear in a new browser window.

For some layers you will be taken to the Landcare Research LRIS Portal to obtain the data. There you can download directly the data for the layer you are looking at in Our Environment. On these ocassions, the map extent shown in the LRIS Portal will correspond to the approximate area your map is showing in Our Environment.