NTLIS policies, standards and guidelines

Data custodianship guidelines

Data custodianship recognises that some organisations are experts in specific data sets. These organisations should be made responsible for the care and maintenance of these data sets on behalf of the community, so that everyone can share them. 

Custodians are generally those that have: 

  • the greatest need to guarantee the accuracy and integrity of the information 
  • a knowledge of the collection, currency and completeness of the information. 

Custodians advise users of the information's availability, quality and fitness for a specific purpose. 

In practice the concept of data custodianship is essential to achieve a corporate approach to management of information across agencies and governments and to the delivery of consistent data to users. 

It is one of the cornerstones of corporate LIS/GIS development and more generally land information management. 


The generally accepted principles of data custodianship in Australia are listed below.


Custodians do not 'own' data but hold it in trusteeship on behalf of the community.


When determining what standards should apply to the data in their care custodians must seek input from other data users.


Custodians must develop and maintain plans for collection, maintenance and conversion of the data in their care in conformity with the needs of users.

Authoritative source 

As the authoritative source the custodian also becomes the preferred supplier. This minimises confusion among users, especially where others may have contributed to the data set


The custodian is accountable for the integrity of the data in its care.

Information collection 

Custodians are not expected to collect information for which they have no requirement. 

It must be justified in terms of their own business needs. Users wanting more data than a custodian is prepared to collect are expected to contribute to costs.

Maintain access 

Even if custodians outsource their information management they are still responsible for ensuring the information is collected and made accessible according to the agreed standards.

Data custodian responsibilities

An agency that accepts custodianship for a data set will also accept the following responsibilities:


Custodians must consult widely with regard to the data in their care and take account of the needs of users other than themselves when defining collection and maintenance programs and data standards.


Custodians must avoid duplication by ensuring that the data does not already exist elsewhere in the format required.

Provision of metadata 

Metadata must be maintained and made available by custodians to the NT Spatial Data Directory in a form consistent with the ANZLIC metadata guidelines.


Custodians must develop and apply standards to the data that conform with relevant national, international or otherwise agreed standards.


Custodians must maintain appropriate coverage, completeness, quality, currency, accuracy and accessibility of the data in their care.

Government interest 

Custodians must safeguard the Northern Territory Government’s interests in the data through the use of licensing agreements and appropriate security, archiving and other data protection procedures. 

They may also ensure a return on the Government’s investment in the data by exploiting it commercially.

Single point of contact

Custodians should establish a single point of contact for information about the data in their care.

Price and marketing

The conditions and price under which a data set will be marketed, value added or provided to third parties for commercial use are determined by custodians. 

This is subject to any relevant Northern Territory Government policies and directions regarding commercial use of data.

Data user responsibilities

Data users have the following responsibilities.

Errors and omissions 

When a user uncovers errors or omissions in a data set the custodian should be advised immediately so that these can be corrected.

Future requirements 

To enable custodians to effectively plan and implement capture and maintenance programs users should advise them of their developing requirements.

Licence agreements 

Data licence agreements between organisations may be either contracts or statements of trust. Users should ensure that all individuals accessing the data abide by the agreed conditions.

Commercial use 

Unless specifically agreed with custodians, users should never sell or commercially supply the data or products derived from it.

Source of information 

The source of the data and acknowledgement of the custodian should always be cited by the user.


Subject to compliance with these responsibilities a user has the right to use the data internally as it wishes.  Where a user also upgrades, improves or otherwise enhances the data they have a responsibility to pass such enhancements back to the custodians and to make them available to other users.

Criteria and responsibility for selecting data custodians

The criteria for selecting an agency as a data custodian are listed below. These are not listed in order of priority.

The agency:

  • has sole statutory responsibility for the capture and maintenance of the data
  • has the greatest operational need for the data
  • is the first to record changes to the data
  • is the most competent to capture and/or maintain the data
  • is in the best economic position to justify collection of the data at source
  • requires the highest integrity of the data.

Responsibility for allocating data custodianship for corporate land information and data sets across the Northern Territory Government lies with the NT Land Information Management Coordination Group.

Before an agency accepts data custodianship

In accepting custodianship an agency needs to take into account:

  • the responsibilities that this entails
  • whether it can meet the requirements adequately. 

If a custodian agency determines that it can no longer meet these requirements it has the responsibility to find an alternative agency willing to take over custodianship for its data sets.

Custodianship and Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure

Responsibility for accepting sponsorship or custodianship responsibilities for Northern Territory components of the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI) lies with the chief executive officer of the relevant agency, following advice from the Land Information Management Coordination Group.

With regard to the development of Territory components of the ASDI, custodians are expected to work closely with the nominated national sponsors as defined by the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC) or ministerial councils.

A National sponsor of a fundamental data set is a body having a special interest in ensuring that the data set both:

  • is widely available to the community as part of the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure 
  • has the structure and resources to enable it carry out these activities.

Data transfers

Exchange of data between agencies and supply to external organisations is subject to the policies defined by the Land Information Management Coordination Group and other information management policies endorsed by the Northern Territory Government.

In addition, the Northern Territory Government has agreed in principle to the terms of the draft National Agreement on Data Transfer developed under the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE). 

Data custodians should apply the terms of this agreement when dealing with environmental information.

Management of information products

Information products are value-added data sets derived from any of the following:

  • data integration
  • data enhancement
  • presentation enhancement
  • other forms of customisation. 

 Such products are usually commercially valuable and in demand from agencies and external organisations. They may be developed in-house, by the user agency or by third parties.

Custodians are responsible for establishing the marketing conditions for their data within the policy framework established by the Northern Territory Government. 

These will include the terms and conditions under which data may be used for value-added information products.

These conditions should be defined in formal agreements between agencies or in the form of commercial licensing contracts with external organisations according to the standards and guidelines established by the NT Land Information Management Coordination Group.

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Last updated: 17 March 2016

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