Emeritus Prof Basil Jones, former head of surveying at
the University of Otago, says the profession has entered an
''exciting'' period of rapid change, but surveyors will retain
a crucial role in managing the new technology.
Prof Jones (80), who lives in Dunedin, spent 17 years at
Otago University, including serving as assistant
vice-chancellor, sciences, before retiring in 1993.
He was a key figure this week at a reunion marking the 50th
anniversary of surveying at the university and the 125th
anniversary of the New Zealand Institute of Surveying.
Two land information-linked conferences, including the
institute's national conference, were held at the university
and a reunion social event last night was named in his
Prof Jones said he experienced ''very mixed'' feelings during
the week, including nostalgia for previous times, pleasure in
meeting old friends and surveying graduates and a sense of
excitement about the future.
He was also proud of the many achievements of the Otago
School of Surveying, which had long been preparing students
for the growing role of geographic information systems (GIS)
New Zealand was one of the most thoroughly surveyed countries
in the world, and the traditional strengths of surveyors,
including integrity and sound judgement over problem-solving,
remained crucial for the future.
Some surveyors fear the profession could come under threat
from members of the public adopting a ''do it yourself''
approach by using smartphones to photograph their property
boundaries and to simultaneously call up streams of land
Prof Jones said he remained optimistic about the future, and
said the good judgement of surveyors would not be replaced by
faster, smarter devices.
Surveyors also understood about potential sources of error
using any surveying approach. and realised surveying had
always been heavily multidisciplinary, also requiring
knowledge of the law, among other matters.
On Thursday, Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson
urged surveyors to embrace the ''exciting'' world of rapid
technological advances, including use of advanced electronic
Land Information New Zealand was already moving towards
adopting such GIS mapping approaches and all Government
departments were also being asked to pursue such approaches,
he told the conference.
GIS combine electronic maps with many sets of other land
information to create powerful new tools to improve
Mr Williamson said tools which had already arrived included
small drone aircraft which carried out
photographic surveying and powerful GIS data available on
mobile devices, including smartphones. GIS mapping
incorporated a new ''fourth dimension''- time. This enabled
planners to consider, for example, the best location for a
new city emergency health facility, partly by analysing
city-wide traffic patterns on a 24-hour basis.
He also highlighted another dramatic revolution in
three-dimensional copying, which was enabling complex pieces
of equipment to be ''printed out'' in a single piece, already
This meant physical exports could now effectively be sent to
the other side of the world via internet, he said.
He acknowledged in an interview that some surveyors might
feel anxious about the sweeping changes ahead, but these were
positive and could not be ignored or prevented.
''There's a train coming down the track.''