Land Information NZ has a team of 60 now working on its five-year, $128 million replacement of the legacy Landonline property register.
Less than half of the staff are contractors and LINZ plans to reduce that further to build and keep expertise in-house over the course of the programme and beyond, the agency told Parliament's primary production subcommittee.
The programme, dubbed STEP for Survey and Title Enhancement Programme, is split into four tranches over five years. It was funded in October 2018 and commenced in March 2019.
LINZ reported the project was on track at the committee hearing in December and was part of the way through the first tranche which is due to finish in June.
Asked by committee chair David Bennett to explain the difference in costs between doing the rebuild internally and contracting it out, LINZ deputy CEO, business transformation, Murray Young, said the agency didn’t actually have that cost difference available.
"The outside option would have been to use a third-party vendor to do the work," he explained according to a transcript of the hearing released on 31 March.
"The core of the business case and the way forward is to actually bring in internal resource so that we can continually improve the system over time.
"We remove the risk of having to do another major rebuild in 20 years’ time or 15 years’ time, as we’re doing it right now."
Young said LINZ was trying to achieve three things: building capability through the 60 people that have come in-house to run the project; building methods and practices and the ability to work with those people, the business and industry to build the system in an Agile way; and picking three pieces of software that LINZ would develop in the first tranche of the project that were "relatively simple".
"There’s a search engine that registered users use and the public will be able to use; so the first versions of that are already out in a pilot way," he explained.
"The other two is notices of changes in terms of mortgagee for financial institutions, and the other is notices of changes of ownership for territorial authorities for rating purposes."
All three were underway.
Young said the building of capability had gone very well, and LINZ was starting to complete the single stage business case for the next tranche.
Tranches two and three are where LINZ will replace the core of the system, which are already in design with solicitors and surveyors. Tranches two and three also include re-platforming the technology.
In the fourth tranche, LINZ will look more to the future and the introduction of a three dimensional cadastre, the digital record of land boundaries, rather than two dimensional.
"A large component of this programme was the risk of current technology, which is 20 years old, and there are two core risks there," Young explained.
"One is: it’s very hard to change. To do a release of the current system is about six or eight months of testing, because it’s all linked in.
"By comparison, a very small thing, but the survey pilot we’ve got out now, we can change overnight. We’ve got that cadence working."
The second challenge was that the current technology had security issues because "what was an acceptable architecture 20 years ago no longer is".