The vision for the establishment of NZOR was to create an accurate, authoritative, comprehensive and continuously updated catalogue of the circa 140,000 names applied to New Zealand biota and other taxa of importance to us. To achieve that vision NZOR has two fundamental components, the network of data providers and the information infrastructure to collate and deliver data to end-users.

The NZOR concept was established a number of years ago (see history and future). In 2009 TFBIS supported the development of the NZOR information infrastructure. This is a federated data-sharing framework allowing information to be regularly harvested from multiple distributed data sources, integrated into a single digital catalogue, and made accessible to end-users. In June 2012 we completed the development of the NZOR infrastructure. A number of organisations now use the NZOR services and data (see history and future). As far as we are aware NZOR remains the most complete digital taxonomic catalogue of any country in the world, and the NZOR infrastructure for harvesting, integrating and disseminating these data is unique.

The creation of a national digital catalogue of names appears at first sight to be a relatively straightforward task. However, there are hidden difficulties. The domain of applying scientific names to organisms is a surprisingly complex one – one species can have many names, and one name can apply to several species. These linkages between names change over time. In 2009 New Zealand achieved a milestone with the publication of the first volume of the New Zealand Inventory of Biodiversity (NZIB), edited by Dennis Gordon. NZOR can be considered to be the digital and continuously updated version of the NZIB. Several organisations managing data associated with specific taxonomic groups and can act as data providers to the NZOR network. The task of the NZOR infrastructure is to bring these data together, to look for commonality and differences between data, and to dynamically synthesise a single national view of the best available data. The NZOR infrastructure is intended to minimise the human effort needed to keep the catalogue up to date, and therefore minimise the cost of maintaining it.