Departmental Organisation and Work
Until 1906 the Surveyor-General was the permanent head of the Department of Lands and Survey and carried the additional title of Secretary of Lands. Briefly, the Department surveyed the lands of the Crown, including surveys of Maori land, of land required for public purposes, and of roads and railways; approved and looked after all land-title survey plans and records; maintained cadastral plans for administrative and public references; produced topographical and general-purpose maps; administered and disposed of Crown land for settlement; and administered public reserves and domains.
The last two were, in 1906, vested at head office in the Under-Secretary of Lands. In the 1930s, the combined offices of Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Crown Lands were separated. The provincial districts, except for minor changes in boundaries and the subsequent creation of new land districts, became the land districts of the present day. The Chief Surveyor of each land district – the boundaries of which coincide with the Land Registration Districts administered by the District Land Registrar – has full administrative authority within his district subject to the overall control and direction of the Surveyor-General.
The demarcation of land-title boundaries, including surveys for railways and roads, the settlement of backblock lands, the development of new towns, the extension of existing towns and cities, and the closer subdivision of land between 1876 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, was an enormous task both for the field and for the office staff of the Department.