Home > Uncategorized > Using ABS ASGS Data in OpenStreetMap

Using ABS ASGS Data in OpenStreetMap

A little while ago Marcus Blake from the Australian Bureau of Statistics asked the OSM community about the potential use of some ABS data. As I mentioned on the list I think it is good that at least some government departments are making their data available under free licenses and that they engage with with the community to sort out any technical details about the data.

As described by the ABS, the ASGS is essentially data describing geographical areas.

ASGS ABS Structures - CC-BY 2.5 AU Australian Bureau of Statistics

ASGS Non-ABS Structures - CC-BY 2.5 AU Australian Bureau of Statistics

Working out which if any structures should be incorporated into OSM and how needs careful consideration, and I’ve posted some of my thoughts to the list. In the mean time, since the data does contain some landuse information I’ve been looking into how best to use this information to aid in mapping. A blind import is not an option in my opinion, but I thought it would be handy to see the data as a base map when mapping.

I did try using ogr2osm to convert the data to the OSM xml format to load into JOSM (I even got the translateAttributes function for ogr2osm working for this dataset), but due to the nature of the data, I think a simple raster underlay works well. I tried two approaches in parallel.

  1. shp -> osm (using ogr2osm) -> postgres (using osm2pgsql) -> raster tiles (using mapnik).
  2. Using GeoServer to serve a WMS which can be loaded into JOSM.

Option 2 seemed to require less set up time. Simply used the GUI to load the shapefile, and apply a style. Then load the WMS into JOSM.

ABS Mech Blocks with landuse styling in JOSM, with NearMap underlay.

ABS Mech Blocks with landuse styling in JOSM, with NearMap underlay.

One caveat, if you want to load a WMS services from GeoServer into JOSM, I found the URL should look something like:


Slightly unrelated but if you are using tomcat or jetty locally but only occasionally (like I do), I find it is best to use sysv-rc-conf (eg. sudo sysv-rc-conf tomcat6 off) to disable the tomcat or jetty daemon from running at boot, whilst still allowing you to start it (sudo service tomcat6 start) when you need it.

If anyone is interested in getting such data in JOSM and would like more details, just let me know.

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  1. March 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm | #1

    Hi Andrew…thx for blogging about the ASGS we are presently in the “tell everyone” phase of the project plan and therefore we are looking for as much discussion as possible. Nice to see our diagram being used.

    In relation to the MB category, a couple of points of reference.

    1. The category was originally derived from State/Territory land use zoning data which only provide a potential landuse and therefore does not guarantee that the landuse is correct. Therefore I would say that it is not a point of truth for landuse information.

    2. Each State and Territory collects these data according to their own definitions which can be quite different. The ABS has made a “best effort” to aggregate these separate definitions in to a simplfied set.

    3. Whilst landuse has been maintained within our mesh block maintenance processes. The category for the vast majority of MB has not been reviewed since 2004.

    • Andrew Harvey
      March 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | #2

      >Nice to see our diagram being used.
      Only possible because of your use of Creative Commons Licenses ;-)

      I’ve mainly been using the MB category as a guide, in combination with NearMap and ground observations, rather than a single point of truth for OSM.

      It mostly helps to find areas in the OSM data that may have school/park/industrial/retail tags missing or overlooked and need further investigation whether it be from NearMap or observations from the ground. So it doesn’t matter too much if it is not “authoritive”, nor if it’s just a “best effort” (the whole of OSM is an ongoing “best effort”), nor if it’s a couple of years old.

  2. April 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm | #3

    Andrew if you have an WMS like geoserver you can also use in Potlatch using a proxy:
    So you add to Potlatch as background like this:

    Best regards from Chile

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