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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The story of the development of New Zealand may almost be found in the history of the surveying and mapping of its territory. The land surveyor was the forerunner of settlement, the explorer of the hinterlands, the roadmaker, and the designer of its towns and cities. In the pioneering era the work of the surveyor was difficult in the extreme. New Zealand has some 3,000 miles of indented and irregular coastline enclosing a total area of 103,000 sq. miles. The terrain is dissected by mountain ranges and turbulent rivers and streams, and the dense rain forests and the lack of communications presented unique logistic and technical problems for the land surveyor. It is to his credit that the standards, methods, and techniques in land surveying adopted in those pioneering days have been the basis for the development of a most efficient survey and mapping organisation.

Tasman in 1642 and Captain Cook between 1769 and 1772 charted the coasts of New Zealand. Cook's chart, supplemented by knowledge of the hinterland gained from the Maoris, was the only source of geographical information available to the missionaries, traders, and whalers before 1840. Sporadic and scattered settlements were established along the coast on land purchased directly from the Maoris for trade goods and muskets. These deeds of purchase, the boundaries of which were loosely defined, became the basis of subsequent land claims investigated by the colonial Government in 1840 following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.


Russell Gladstone Dick, I.S.O., formerly Surveyor-General, Department of Lands and Survey.