[LINK] Dept Environment NSW outsource walking maps

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Wed Jan 13 09:05:12 AEDT 2010


I note with interest, and some dismay, that with its Web presence 
subsumed into the Department of the Environment, NSW's National Parks 
and Wildlife Service has outsourced bushwalk descriptions and some 
mapping to "Wildwalks.com".

Dismay, for various reasons.

One is that the NPWS is no longer the source of the walk descriptions, 
and therefore no longer directly responsible for their accuracy. As 
someone who has long relied on the NPWS as providing reliable 
information about walk difficulty, distance and length; and with lots of 
experience of incompetent, inaccurate, or unreasonable descriptions 
elsewhere (including various "name" bushwalking books), I'm not happy 
that the descriptions would be out of the hands of rangers who are 
familiar with the walks. Instead the descriptions are in the hands of an 
essentially unknown, poorly identified group of volunteers.

My experience of "enthusiast" bushwalking information is:

- the enthusiast generally over-estimates the capabilities of 'ordinary' 
walkers, and underestimates walk difficulty and length;
- I have little faith in the accuracy of enthusiast walk descriptions. 
Simple quality control stuff like poor sub-editing delivers serious 
howlers (in my copy of "Take a Walk" for the Blue Mountains, "left" and 
"right" are frequently confused).
- The map quality on Wildwalks is dreadful. Yes, I do carry my own 
copies of topos, so it doesn't matter to me, but plenty of people will 
take something on-line for a short walk. My example, here:
... in which (say) all the walks of Wentworth Falls are shown, but none 
of them are named. Even a sketch map *with* walk names would be more 
useful and less likely to get the inexperienced walker into trouble.

Now, I'm all in favour of "Web 2.0" attitudes where they make sense, but 
outsourcing a professional function in this way, where public safety is 
at issue, is a case where I would argue that control should have 
remained with the responsible body.

Richard C

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