The National Forward Works Viewer (NFWV) was initially created in response to the rebuild which followed the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. The earthquakes destroyed parts of the city and significant works were undertaken as part of the recovery. This required coordination by multiple agencies working on the Christchurch rebuild to make works more efficient whilst also reducing inconvenience to businesses and the public. The NFWV tool was designed to create a single, integrated view of the recovery works. The initial roll-out of the Forward Works Viewer is estimated to have saved over $15 million in its first 18 months of use through shared roading works, traffic management and trenching, and reduced project management costs for coordinating agencies.
Before the NFWV existed, there was no platform available which allowed organisations to share their intentions in the road corridor. This would mean that issues occurred where one agency would apply for a traffic permit to upgrade their water pipes, and the following month a different organisation may apply for a permit to replace their fibre cabling - so the road would be dug up twice when the work could have been done at the same time if both organisations knew of each other’s intentions.
The Forward Works Viewer is designed to provide a single integrated view of multiple organisations planned works, enabling them to undertake a ‘dig-once’ approach and sequence projects more efficiently. By all organisations publishing their intentions in the road corridor, it allows visibility on planned works and enables conversations to happen between agencies more easily. The collaboration between agencies saves time and money, and reduces the inconvenience to businesses and the public from roadworks, as well as having environmental benefits. Collaborating on work opportunities means less resource waste and pollution.
The original Forward Works Viewer needed an overhaul in terms of performance, functionality, and visuals to make it easier for all agencies and councils to use and navigate. It was built in haste to serve the immediate function of collaboration after the earthquake and was not built with a long term view in mind, but after the earthquake the tool was recognised for its usefulness as a business-as-usual planning tool, and other councils began to use it.
The Product Owner, Open Plan, was passionate about the tool being built on open-source technology to free the platform of any proprietary licensing and the open standards guaranteed interoperability for future development. It also fit well with the new home of the FVW - a software foundation called the Digital Built Aotearoa Foundation - a not-for-profit charitable organisation formed with the goal of encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing from lessons learned to enable and improve infrastructure resilience throughout Aotearoa.
Catalyst was brought on board to rebuild the Forward Works Viewer at the end of 2021, and the stunning new tool was launched in April 2023.
The Catalyst team was working with complicated data sets and the logic around the clashes and opportunities in the tool was complex. The data migration from the old system required an incredible amount of work to make sure the developers could pull everything across, as well as redesigning the new site.
The Catalyst team used map-based tool GIS Core to rebuild the National Forward Works Viewer. Catalyst GIS Core is cloud-native and as-a-service, with updates, monitoring, backups, and disaster recovery included. It is built on open standards for interoperability with other software, and is a fast, stable, reliable, cost-effective spatial data platform. GIS Core is Catalyst’s in-house product which gives us full control and full customisation of everything that needs doing rather than trying to integrate it with a third party system.
A user can log into the FVW system and see a map of all planned works in the area they are looking at, coloured by infrastructure type. Each project has a dedicated project summary page which details high-level information such as the name of the project, a brief description, start and end dates and the contact details of the project manager. The system also generates a list of clashes (a project happening in the same place at the same time) and opportunities (a project happening in the same place but at a different time) which allows users to have a conversation with the other project managers to either reschedule their project or to work together. Users can add a project manually into the system, or projects can be bulk uploaded from other data sources or ingested via an API from a project management system.
The tool can also be used for event planning and coordination, such as closing off streets for the Christchurch City Marathon. The route is loaded into the Forward Works Viewer so any road maintenance can be scheduled around the marathon.
The tool can also ingest additional geospatial information in the form of contextual layers, so layers such as sites of cultural significance, assets, haulage routes and public transport routes can be laid over the project information to improve the knowledge of the area.
“It allows users to upload their planned work programmes to one central map, accessible to different organisations, creating a single authoritative repository of mapped forward works programmes,” says Adam Pantlin, Catalyst delivery lead.
There are now councils signed up all across the country, including Wellington City Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, and Auckland Transport, as well as construction companies, contractors, and sub contractors.
The platform saves councils and contractors money and time, and is also more sustainable. Collaborating on projects saves huge amounts of resources, as well as pollutants from being released into the atmosphere, soil and waterways, by enabling road construction companies to collaborate around the timing of their projects.
The National Forward Works Viewer was originally developed, in 2013, with input from LINZ (Land Information New Zealand), CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority), CCDU (the Christchurch Central Development Unit), CTOC (the Christchurch Transport Operations Centre) and SCIRT (the Stronger Canterbury Infrastructure Rebuild Team).