Aug 1, 2012

The ability of a profession to change to meet the needs of the public

A fascinating read if you have the time is tracing the history of the profession through the directions governing cadastral surveys and plans in Queensland since 1847. These directions are available for DNRM on CD for those who do not have it.

I believe it is only when you understand the rules and  regulations of those whom we follow that can you truly appreciate how to apply our land tenure system and how the profession has evolved to what we have today. 

History of the profession

The directions under which surveyors practice and operate has evolved from a two page document in 1848 to 206 pages in 2012. The registrar directions for the preparation of survey plans has evolved from 2 pages in 1890 to only 118 pages.

The profession through these regulations has shown the ability over time to evolve and adapt with  changes and technology and public need

One example of this is the recent changes to the rules that govern survey of land fronting an ambulatory boundary in Queensland. The profession has again been tested and has come up with a solution to the change in public policy to preservation of public waterways and beaches. This will not be the last....

An interesting example of why surveyors need to set the regulations not others......

At the forefront of most in relation to surveying is accuracy. But it is surprising that the accuracy requirements for performing rural surveys has not changed since the 1898 directions to surveyors which stated a limit of error of closure of 1 link in 50 chains or 1:5000. Wages have increased since 1898 (slightly)..

Most people would say that is crazy....Surveyors measure more accurately now than they did in 1898,why haven't they changed and increased the accuracy specification to that equivalent to what is being used. Well to a surveyor like me I believe there has been no need for change as this regulation still meets the public need.

A need to organise and participate

Anticipating the public need is important in how we regulate the profession and how it remains viable.

I think there are real challenges that lay before the profession especially from the perspective of number of people who will administer land in the future. A growing need and a reduced workforce. We (the surveying profession)  need to get smarter and more efficient in the way land is managed to deal with this to meet the future 'public need'.

I hope surveyors can lead the regulatory reform that effects the Surveying profession in Queensland through recent changes in technology and public policy,  rather than being lead by those who do not have an understanding of the history and importance of the profession and our regulations to meet the needs of the public.


  1. An interesting post. I have quite a few reports and other documents that tell some of the story not only of surveying and mapping but of Queensland's development. I think that we should be digitising this material and opening it for everyone to access via open access downloads. We need to work through the on-line memory and a few copyright issues.

    We cannot whinge about being a forgotten or misunderstood profession if there is no way for people to learn about us - and for us to discover a few things about ourselves.

    I hope to suggest a plan that can provide steady progress towards these goals in the near future.

  2. Lee,
    Apropos your comments about history, the profession relegated this paper to the scrap heap whereas I felt it was particularly instructive and might have contained some valuable lessons,

    Cook, John (2012) An interpretation of current progress towards an industry model for Queensland's surveying and mapping industry. In 39th Australian Surveyors Congress, 8-13 November 1998, Launceston, TAS. (Unpublished) accessible via URL,_John.html
    or at URL