Photo selection: early 20th century surveying in New Zealand

To acknowledge International Map Year we’ve selected some of our heritage photos of surveyors at work in New Zealand in the 1920s. Surveying is the process of measuring three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them. As well as being the basis of many maps, it also is used to establish boundaries of land ownership.

Renowned Auckland photographer Clifton Firth documented surveyors from the Department of Lands and Survey in the field, the office, as well as the equipment they used.

New Zealand’s Department of Lands and Survey was established in 1876. It had a wide range of responsibilities from surveying to roads to tourism and immigration. As the New Zealand government department structure crystallised in the 20th century, this department because more specialised, and by the 1980s it oversaw survey, land development, mapping, lands and deeds and Crown land. Land Information New Zealand, or LINZ, is the current incarnation of this.

Though surveying is now carried out with highly technical and computerised equipment, much of the information used to create the foundational maps of New Zealand was gathered using the more manual kinds of equipment pictured below. 

Those interested in reading more about particular surveyors of New Zealand can follow the links here or could try the following titles which are available to read in the Sir George Grey Special Collections reading room:

Author: Angeline Chirnside, Sir George Grey Special Collections