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Vicmap Topographic digital mapping.

Victoria's most important topographic hardcopy mapping product is the State's 1:25 000 printed topographic maps which cover 85% of the State. In total there are 1600 maps (not all of which are printed). The majority of these maps were produced in the 1970s and 1980s using manual mapping processes. Since completion of this program, only a handful of maps have been updated. Hence 85% of the mapping is now more than 10 years old, with 40% being more than 20 years old.

The hardcopy-mapping program practically ceased in the late 1980s. It is estimated that the cost to manually produce a single 1:25 000 map is $30 000. At a state-wide costing of $48 million, it is cost-prohibitive to reinstate a manual mapping program.

Vicmap Topographic is an initiative of Spatial Information Infrastructure (SII) within the Victorian State Government's Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). It is an automated topographic mapping system, which dynamically produces topographic content using digital data. This topographic content is created using the most current and accurate digital information from Victoria's spatial framework databases, which are maintained by the State Government and users. These datasets depict standard topographic map features such as roads, contours, rivers, lakes, built-up areas, tree cover, spot heights, etc.

This content (Vicmap Topographic) can be migrated to a number of outputs, both digital and hardcopy, multi-scale and multi-sized and be able to be created and/or accessed online. The inherent flexibility in this process enables a "one source many outputs" approach to topographic mapping.


Spatial Information Infrastructure (SII), as the custodian for 1:25 000 hardcopy mapping, has been in the process of converting much of Victoria's framework analogue data into digital data for almost two decades. This digital data, known as Vicmap, is current, accurate at 1:25 000, and state-wide. The first fully digital topographic map was produced in 1996 using Vicmap data, and several more were produced up to 2003. These digitally-produced maps were one-offs, and not linked into a state-wide mapping program.


A recommendation in the Review of the Regulatory and Administrative Framework for Survey and Spatial Information in Victoria, released in March 2003, called for the State's mapping program to be "... reconstituted due to the prevalence of out-of-date maps and emerging Government liabilities".

A Geospatial Information Reference Group (GIRG) Forum was held in July 2003 in Melbourne. This group consists of relevant stakeholders in the areas of government, recreation, professional industry, emergency services, the education sector, and map retailers. The forum topic was "Hardcopy Topographic Maps--Exploring the Issues" and was convened to obtain feedback across a number of customer groups on their topographic mapping needs.

In response to the recommendation and the GIRG forum, the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment asked SII, then known as Land Information Group (LIG), to develop a strategy for the production and development of hardcopy topographic mapping for Victoria.

This request was incorporated in the SII (LIG) business plan 2003/2004: "Develop multi purpose published mapping series with stakeholders by June 2004".

The Secretary also requested that SII release an expression of interest (EOI), seeking innovative private sector proposals for partnering with Government for the provision of hard-copy mapping and innovative production techniques and processes.


At the outset of this project a definition was required for the Multi Purpose Published Map Series (MPPMS). It was decided that the outputs of the MPPMS project would entail the following criteria and functionality:

* A cartographic high-quality topographic mapping product

One of the main objectives of this project was to eventually replace the existing 1:25 000 hardcopy topographic maps. Hence, it was expected that the new product(s) would be of an equally high standard in cartographic quality.

* Utilize digital data

No manual or analogue data would be used in creating map outputs. The use of digital data would also allow for flexibility in outputting at various scales. For instance, it was envisaged that the road layer used to depict roads at 1:25 000 would also be used to depict roads at 1:50 000, 1:100 000, 1:250 000, etc. Hence, only one layer would be maintained. This enables a "one source many outputs" approach to mapping.

* Can be digital or hardcopy

Required outputs would have the flexibility of being digital, hardcopy or both. Digital data could be in various formats, i.e., pdf, jpeg, tiff, etc., and would also have the capability of being geo-referenced.

* Have the ability to add or remove themes

The application(s) to be built would have the ability to add or remove themes, both vector and raster, as required by the user.

* May be generated by an index grid, coordinate point or feature name

Even though outputs would be generated using existing and new index systems, it was envisaged that maps would also be created independent of an index, being centred on a user-nominated co-ordinate point, or on the location of a feature name.

* Be multi-scalable

Even though standard scales of mapping would be produced, i.e., 1:25 000 or 1:50 000, outputs would also be generated at non-standard scales, i.e., 1:30 000 or 1:80 000. One important consideration, as stated above, was that all outputs would utilize data sourced from the same data set.

* Be part of a series.

In order to maintain consistency in the look of the product, it was deemed that the outputs would be standardised in terms of layout, feature depiction and feature symbolization.


Three foundation blocks were identified at the start of this project:

1. The standard 1:25 000 topographic hardcopy map was adopted as the benchmark for the visual style of map outputs. This included feature content, feature symbolization, map surrounds and map layout of all products (see Figure 1).

2. SII as custodians of 1:25 000 hardcopy mapping and Vicmap Framework data sets would make specialist recommendations regarding content and outputs.

3. Digital data would be primarily sourced from the Department of Sustainability and Environment's (DSE's) Vicmap and Corporate Geospatial Data Library (CGDL).



The core team involved in the MPPMS project comprise of a project director, a project manager/GIS/mapping analyst and a GIS/Mapping analyst.

Several areas of SII are heavily involved in the MPPMS project. The Environmental Information Services section is responsible for the GIS applications, cartographic content, map finishing and quality assurance. The custodians of the relevant Vicmap Framework data sets are responsible for the ongoing data maintenance performed by external contractors. The Product Marketing section is responsible for product marketing and product development, and the Service Delivery section is responsible for online access and delivery.

As can be seen, SII have taken a holistic approach to the MPPMS project, as it involves many business components of SII.


In order to determine the base elements required for the MPPMS project, a survey was performed on the printed 1:25 000 hardcopy maps to identify the type of features depicted. As a result, 195 separate annotation, polygon, line and point features were identified. These broke down into 91 annotation features, 20 polygon features, 50 line features and 34 point features.

The importance of these features was then categorised according to a requirement status. This status was completely independent of the digital data, and determined the importance of the data for depiction on an output. The four requirement status categories were fundamental, preferred, optional and anticipated. Most of the features fell into the fundamental category, which included primary roads, spot heights and names of lakes. Preferred included local government area boundaries. Optional features included hill shading.

MPPMS products would not be static, and hence the "anticipated" requirement was used for information on the ground that was not depicted on hardcopy maps. One such example was wind farms.


A topographic data audit commenced in January 2004. The primary purpose of this audit was to identify digital data that corresponded with the fundamental map features identified in the feature status survey.

Three important secondary purposes were also achieved.

Firstly, the digital data was evaluated according to mapping criteria to determine if the digital data was robust enough to be able to be used for mapping purposes. These criteria consisted of:

* Availability

The data required to duplicate on a map a feature on the ground, must be available in digital form.

* Currency

The data set is current and up-to-date (all known updates incorporated into the dataset).

* Accuracy

The digital data must be at least accurate at 1:25 000.

* Correct

The information depicted in the digital data is a true representation of the feature on the ground.

* Completeness

The dataset is available state-wide.

* Topological structure

The digital data must conform to digital data standards, i.e., no label errors, dangles, offshoots, multiple labels, etc.

* Cartographic structure

The digital data is captured and stored in such a way that no further processing is required to symbolize it on a map output.

* Consistency

The digital data must be consistent in terms of datum, projection, file type and location.

Secondly, SII, in a parallel process, was developing a new topographic symbology standard library based on the existing 1:25 000 topographic maps.

Thirdly, SII was simultaneously evaluating ESRI ArcGIS ArcMap software for its ability to be used to create outputs based on the criteria and functionality required of the MPPMS project.

At the culmination of the digital topographic data audit, a report was published which detailed the quality of the data according to the above mapping criteria. It also contained recommendations on how to resolve these data quality issues.

It was identified that 26% of the required digital data meet all the audit criteria and could be shown on map outputs, and 10% meet some or none of the audit criteria and could not be used. The remaining 69% category, where the digital data meet some or most of the mapping criteria, was the most problematic. A decision had to be made whether to portray the information on the map as it was and resolve the problem later, or to remove it completely until the data was robust enough for portrayal on the map output.

For instance, mangroves were identified as a fundamental feature but were available only as uncoded line work and could not be depicted as polygons. In their present state, they were unable to be portrayed on the map, but they have been identified as needing to be topologically structured. The digital line work for cliffs, also a fundamental feature, was inconsistent in its topological structure, so that in some cases the strokes of the cliff symbology pointed up slope instead of down slope. Even though this was not cartographically correct, it was decided to retain this feature on the map, whilst also identifying the need to address this problem.

Data quality issues identified in the audit report were to be resolved using three different processes:

* Problems identified in data currently under maintenance are being sent back to the contractors for correction.

* Problems identified in data not currently under maintenance are being referred to possible external custodian.

* Problems identified in data not currently under maintenance and not sourced externally are being resolved internally by SII.


ESRI ArcGIS ArcMap satisfied all the current requirements for functionality for the MPPMS project as outline above, and hence was used to build the mapping application for this project.

One of the key benefits of this application is that it dynamically accesses data from the maintained source. Hence, map outputs will depict the most current Vicmap Framework data available. If a road name is updated in the data set, then this change will be reflected in the map output dynamically next time the mapping application is run.

The application also massages the data by selecting, symbolizing and placing text dynamically as it extracts the data. Information is also layered to replicate existing topographic maps. (see Figure 2)


The application has become an important quality assurance tool as it allows for data to be visually interrogated, not in isolation but in relation to other data sets. For instance, tree cover and water bodies, fences and airfields, roads and areas subject to inundation etc.


At the conclusion of the topographic digital data audit, SII had created a new product which was called Vicmap Topographic. This product is a seamless state-wide topographically symbolized data set dynamically updated from the most current available data. This was a major breakthrough and satisfies fundamental requirements of the Vicmap Topographic Digital Mapping 31 MPPM project. Importantly, this content can now be migrated to an infinite number of products or outputs, multi-scaled, multi-sized, digital or hardcopy.

This is revolutionary in topographic mapping, as SII now has the capability to effectively and efficiently automate topographic mapping for the State.


The first product generated using Vicmap Topographic was the Vicmap Topographic A4 1:30 000 online launched in May 2004. It is an online topographic mapping system which delivers an A4 size standard topographic map of anywhere in Victoria.

The Vicmap A4 topographic maps are created using the most current and accurate information from Victoria's spatial framework databases, which are maintained by the State Government and users. This product depicts the standard topographic map features such as roads, contours, rivers, lakes, built-up areas, towers, spot heights, etc.

The 1:30 000 scale Vicmap topographic maps cover all of Victoria in 6350 sheets, and are provided on a predetermined A4 grid. The maps are based on and aligned to the existing 1:25 000 scale mapsheet grid across the State, and have been designed so that four of the 1:30 000 scale maps will fit into a single existing 1:25 000 scale topographic map.

Each sheet can be identified by its tile number (for example T8124-3-2-3) and referenced to the existing 1:25 000, 1:50 000 and 1: 100 000 index systems. The map series uses the GDA94 datum and the Universal Transverse Mercator Projection. The 1:30 000 scale A4 maps each cover an area five kilometres east to west and seven kilometres north to south.

This series is regenerated every 4 to 6 months, thereby accessing the latest data updates and cartographic enhancements.

Customers who obtain a topographic map online also receive a technical information sheet that includes standard information relevant to all mapsheets. This includes standard legend, generic grid reference sample, projection, datum, compilation dates, and accuracy statements.

Accessed via the Internet, file sizes are predominantly small (under 1 megabyte) to enable immediate download. Delivery is easy: users simply purchase their selection through the on-line Vicmap Topographic maps service --accessible from SII's Land Channel home page pay on-line, using their credit cards. The cost is minimal, with each A4 map costing $1.50 plus administration fees. A pdf file of the purchased map is immediately available for the users to save to their own computer. There is no email delivery involved.


The key benefits of the Vicmap Topographic A4 1:30 000 online are as follows:

* Victoria now has a proven process of automated topographic mapping with high quality cartographic outputs.

* As it uses digital data, this system is very cost-effective, at only a fraction of the cost of traditional hardcopy maps. The product update overheads are almost non-existent. And the topographic map content can be duplicated over a range of further topographic products.

* Vicmap Topographic A4 1:30 000 accesses the most current data live from the source database, so that any updates performed in the data will be reflected on the map product.

* For the first time the entire state of Victoria is covered by large-scale topographic mapping. Previously, mapping for the north-west of the state, covering 15% in area, was available only at 1:100 000 scale.

* Vicmap Topographic 1:30 000 maps supersede the currently available 1:25 000 hardcopy topographic maps, which may be up to 30 years out-of-date.

* A state-wide topographic map series is available for the first time on the new GDA94 datum.

* Anyone in Victoria (or the world!) who has Internet access and an A4 printer can immediately access and print an A4 topographic map(s). There is no dependency on being able to locate the nearest opened map store, which may or may not stock the maps required by the users.

* A key result of the topographic digital data audit is that the status of the data has been evaluated for mapping purposes. Data problems have been identified and recommendations made in order to resolve these issues.

* In an Australian and maybe world first, a topographic map series is available as an A4 size product. Each of the 6350 A4 maps that make up this series is uniquely identified by a numbering system that links this product to other existing Victorian map series products.

The innovative quality of Vicmap Topographic A4 1:30 000 online was recognized by peers and won the international Urban and Regional Information System Association (URISA) Exemplary Systems in Government (ESIG) award in 2004.

In November 2004, Vicmap Topographic double-format mapping 1:25 000 was created state-wide to meet the needs of Victoria's emergency management services. This mapping series also meets the Victorian Government's agenda for environmental and resource management.


The success of Vicmap Topographic A4 1:30 000 online has been the catalyst for a number of major developments:

* It has stimulated discussion amongst state, national and international government mapping agencies.

* SII is now seen as the authoritative source of not only framework data sets but also standard topographic map symbolization and specifications for state-wide topographic mapping.

* The Victorian Police Search and Rescue Division is utilizing the Vicmap Topographic application for their search and rescue missions and also for presentation of evidence to the coroner's court.

* Partnerships are being developed between SII, Emergency Services and private industry to facilitate the delivery of the most current topographic mapping for emergency services' use and for the general public.


SII has a commitment to the ongoing improvement of Vicmap Topographic content and outputs. Enhancements to cartographic content are continuing, especially in the area of text label placement and extraction of map label information from digital features (see Figure 3).


The implementation of recommendations from the topographic digital data audit report is also ongoing, resulting in continuous improvements to data quality.

Future products proposed for 2005 include:

* Vicmap Topographic A3 1:30 000 (internal);

* Vicmap Topographic 1:25 000 geo-referenced (internal): this product will enable GIS users to place their data over a backdrop of topographic information. It will also be used for customised topographic maps centred over a point of interest. It also has potential for use with GPS units, portable hand-held devices and mobile navigation systems;

* Vicmap Topographic custom map print-on-demand using a specified centroid (external); and

* Vicmap Topographic 1:50 000 double format (internal).

Evaluation is also continuing on the feasibility of map publishing for commercial purposes, thereby physically replacing the existing 1:25 000 hardcopy topographic map stock. It is anticipated that a new mapping program will commence in the second half of 2005.


At the direction of the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), SII released an expression of interest (EOI), seeking innovative private sector proposals for partnering with Government for the provision of hard-copy mapping and innovative production techniques and processes.

From this directive, EOI No 200808--Multi-Purpose Published Mapping Series for Victoria, was advertised in late 2003.

Eight submissions were received from the private sector, which were assessed by an evaluation team made up of representatives from the Country Fire Authority, VicRoads, The Department of Infrastructure, and DSE.

In the next phase of the EOI, DSE will be discussing business opportunities with potential private sector partners.


The Victorian Government has reached a high standard in automated topographic mapping and is now a world leader in this field. The ability to generate up-to-date topographic maps directly from the Vicmap spatial database, and to distribute these maps online, means Victoria now has a world-class mapping capability, one that supports a broad range of end uses, including emergency management, environmental, resource management and recreational use.

Rod Flynn, Spatial Information Infrastructure, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). Rod's roles include Project Director for the Multi-Purpose Published Map Series Project.

George Mifsud B.App.Sc. (Cartography). Project Manager for the Multi-Purpose Published Map Series Project for Spatial Information Infrastructure, DSE.
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Title Annotation:Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria's Vicmap Topographic
Author:Mifsud, George
Publication:The Globe
Geographic Code:8AUVI
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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