Some years ago, I was writing a post for my other blog, and I found myself trying to figure out the land area of various islands in the Hauraki Gulf. I found myself unable to dig up credible numbers online. I even checked Wikipedia, which had numbers for some of them and references which were, as usual, a combination of websites written by people who have no business acting as authorities on the subject and promising-looking links resolving to 404 pages. Since I wanted to do this properly, none of that was good enough (Wikipedia is apparently not even sure which islands are in the Hauraki Gulf, which to be fair is a more difficult question to answer than it should be).
I just about decided I didn’t need to know that badly, but being unemployed and thus having plenty of time on my hands, I decided that I was going to make this my mission. Perhaps I, myself, could find an authoritative source and make the information public in a well-referenced, well-organized fashion. You would think that my time spent in grad school would have cemented in my head my utter uselessness at serious research and scholarly pursuits, but I was (as I mentioned) unemployed, and time does weigh heavily on my hands sometimes.
Anyway, I walked to the Auckland Public Library. I went up to the reference desk on the second floor and asked the guy at the desk if he had any surveying documents that might have the information I was looking for.
He went to his computer and went to Wikipedia. I had to resist the urge to burn the place to the ground and I rudely blurted out, before I could stop myself, “but you’re a librarian“.
He got offended and went to get someone else to help me. The other person at least understood that “authoritative source” didn’t mean “some dude on the Internet”, but was also unable to help.
I went back home to mourn the decline of society. I did a bit more digging online and found myself frustrated. New Zealand maintains an office called Land Information New Zealand, which seems to be the authoritative source I was looking for. They have a website, but I could not use their website to find the information I was hoping to find. So I sent them a request using the contact form on their website:
Subject: General land information Hello, I am curious if LINZ includes information about land area. I am interested in obtaining land area information for a number of large-scale geographic features, such as the Hauraki Gulf islands. Where can I obtain official sources of this information? Thank you for your time and attention. Regards, Nathan
I was unsure how long I would have to wait, but it turns out just six hours:
Good afternoon Nathan Thank you for your email. I suggest you visit our LINZ Data Service at https://data.linz.govt.nz/. Kind regards Rachel Land Information New Zealand
I found this response somewhat frustrating, as I had sent the request using the contact form on that very website they were asking me to visit. I considered sending a reply telling them that I was obviously too incompetent to use their website and require further assistance, but I got distracted by some other shiny object and never pursued the matter.
It is clear that scholarly pursuits are not for me.