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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.



Government Surveys

Otago was the most advanced district in land-title survey methods and techniques. J. T. Thomson, Chief Surveyor of Otago, was appointed the first Surveyor-General for the colony following the abolition of provincial government in 1876. He and his team of Chief Surveyors tackled the problem of improving the state of surveys with ability and energy. A system of meridional circuits controlled by triangulation networks was laid down. By the end of the nineteenth century the whole of the country had been covered by a triangulation system that has served, until recently, most of New Zealand's survey and mapping needs. This accomplishment sealed the Crown's guarantee of the measurements and areas for land parcels.

The Surveyor-General immediately established a Surveyors' Board, which was responsible for the qualification of land surveyors and the review of the qualifications of all surveyors then employed in Government and private practice. A land-surveying profession was thus established, responsible to the Crown for the accuracy and indefeasibility of land-title boundaries. Thus the Crown's guarantee of the accuracy of land title surveys was safeguarded. Uniform regulations for the control of land-title surveys carried out under the Land Act, the Public Works Act, the Maori Land Act, the Mining Act, and the Land Transfer Act, and for the provision of survey records and cadastral maps, were gazetted. Ever since, the offices of the Registrar-General of Lands and the Surveyor-General have been closely linked in their administration of the land-title registration system. In districts, the Chief Surveyor is responsible to the District Land Registrar for the approval of all surveys of land subdivisions carried out under the Land Transfer Act. Such approval is necessary before the District Land Registrar may issue title to the land. The merits of the work of these early surveyors is proved by the fact that there has been no fundamental change in the land-title survey system since its inception in 1876. A professional institute was set up in 1881, comprising both Government and private surveyors. It has helped its members to keep abreast with the latest technical developments and has maintained a high standard in the profession.