Kōrero: Modern mapping and surveying

Whārangi 5. A variety of maps

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero

Once basic maps of the country had been produced, many different kinds of maps could be made, using data licensed from the government.

Travel maps

Car numbers in New Zealand increased hugely over the 20th century – the first cars were imported in 1898, and there were 356,284 registered in 1955 and 1,481,822 by 1985. The country’s roads were developed and upgraded, and maps showing the roading network became increasingly important. Organisations such as the Automobile Association (AA) or petrol companies published maps specifically for motorists, in part to encourage car use. In 1992 the AA was the largest non-government map producer in the country, and in the 2000s it continued to produce national and regional road maps.

Street maps

Increased urbanisation and travel made street maps of cities important. From 1950 the Department of Lands and Survey published a series of street maps. The first was of Palmerston North, using a street map of Washington DC as a model. From 1987 these maps became known as ‘Streetfinders’ and the series as Infomap 271.

Other publishers of street maps included the AA, New Zealand Minimaps, Universal Business Directories and Wises.


Many people were introduced to maps of New Zealand through school atlases, such as Whitcombe’s New Zealand clear school atlas. In 1937 it was proposed that a historical atlas of New Zealand be created as part of New Zealand’s centennial celebrations. This was never completed, but in 1959 the government published A descriptive atlas of New Zealand, which drew on the material compiled for the centennial atlas project. The work was done by staff of the Department of Lands and Survey.

World-wide there was a boom in national atlases throughout the 1960s and 1970s and New Zealand was no exception, with the government publishing the New Zealand atlas in 1976. The 1960 and 1976 atlases sold extremely well, but received criticism, the first for not being comprehensive, the second for its conservative format and content. In 1987 the first edition of the Heinemann New Zealand atlas came out. It essentially reproduced the Department’s 1:250,000 maps in a more convenient format.

A variety of thematic New Zealand atlases have also been released over the years, including cave atlases, a Māori oral history atlas (He Korero Purakau mo nga taunahanahatanga a nga tupuna) and an atlas of coastal resources. In 1997 the New Zealand historical atlas, whose innovative cartography was enthusiastically received, was published.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Melanie Lovell-Smith, 'Modern mapping and surveying - A variety of maps', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/modern-mapping-and-surveying/page-5 (accessed 30 May 2024)

He kōrero nā Melanie Lovell-Smith, i tāngia i te 24 Nov 2008, updated 1 Aug 2018