Review and new outline for AS/NZS 4819 Rural and Urban Addressing

January 4, 2012

AS/NZS 4819, Geographic Naming

I worked for two years on the SASIG, representing the interests of emergency services in what has been a major overhaul of this Standard, published November 2011.

The trickier problem of legacy addresses

The new AS/NZS 4819 was developed as best practice for the assignment of new addresses, but the thousands of problem ‘legacy’ addresses already in existence is a more intractable problem. Some are possibly minor in terms of risk as long as there are good safeguards in the call-handling protocols, such as always verifying the name of the nearest cross street.  However, many genuinely serious address anomalies do cause repeated problems for Triple Zero call takers and result in delays due to misdirection for emergency services trying to locate a property. I have even received calls from members of the public, worried at having witnessed an ambulance driving around looking lost, with lights and sirens on.

‘Changing’ addresses is not easy

If a road name is a duplicate and has to be changed people tend to object. Many people do not like change, and are attached to “their address”. For some it’s just the inconvenience (some councils provide excellent assistance in this area, notifying utilities, and in some cases paying for mail forwarding). In other cases residents simply cannot be persuaded that if their property is difficult for a visitor from out-of-town to find, then it is also likely that the same might apply to an ambulance. They will insist that they are willing to accept the risk, despite the problem that this concerns not just their address, but can also place at risk their neighbours, visitors or workers in the area and passers-by, a well as he people who may occupy their home in the future.

These arguments have become heated, not just in isolated rural areas, but also in a few established inner urban areas. Individual long-term residents will form a furious attachment to a particular address or a road name. They sometimes will argue that a change will affect property values. One particularly creative resident telephoned me with a litany of angst. This included an argument that, if the council changed her road name, she would be forced to update the map data in her SatNav device and buy a new Melway map.

I suspect that the dangerous and nostalgic tendency to trust in local knowledge in these situations is part of “she’ll be right”and part to do with status. Perhaps there is a deep-seated need to believe that “everyone knows where I live”.  

Once parish pump politics take hold there is no stopping the impassioned groups of residents who decide to stand up for the personal freedom of a duplicate road name.  The local emergency responders are often unaware or in denial that there is a problem. Many responders do not clearly understand how their jurisdiction or agency computer dispatch system (CAD) and call-taking process works. I have seen local emergency services officers try to placate the locals and in the process downplay the risk. With the intention of maintaining trust they can really do a disservice to their own communities in this regard. They may also underestimate how frequently emergency responders (without their confidence in “local knowledge”) are dispatched from outside the area. 

I have been involved in negotiating through some heated meetings with residents, local emergency services officers, and council members and council officers. For the few councils who have faced the most strident local opposition, the lack of any state regulations for mandatory addressing standards presents a tempting justification for avoiding fixing even the most serious addressing and road naming problems.

How to Check your address in Victoria

Here is a relatively simple way that anyone in Victoria can verify their most authoritative, most current street address,  the address that you should be using on all documentation, utilities, drivers license and everything. You may see a different address Google maps, Australia Post, PSMA G-Naf data, Telstra, your lease and,  in some cases, not even the Property Title. This is because there are many databases, even within different Victorian government, departments and agencies and they are often not connected or synchronized.


The legal framework for street addressing in Victoria, Australia

The role of Councils

Street Addressing: *Where?* do you want your emergency responder

Vicmap Address Data and who uses it  Vicmap Address is one of the framework (digital) datasets in the Victorian Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI)

The issue of Vanity Addresses

The problem with duplicated road names

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About yvonnert

Extensive experience working in government spatial data infrastructure. Over ten years as a bridge maker in emergency services, with strong partnering skills providing leadership for spatial information strategy.

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  1. NSW Comprehensive Property Addressing System Program (CPAS) | mygeoplace - November 12, 2012

    […] you may know from previous posts on  AS/NZS4819  I’ve long been a passionate advocate for street address as a fundamental enabler, […]

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