The Geodetic Survey, Colony of Victoria 1859–1873 :

Ligar’s Plan and Ellery’s Assessment


Ligar’s Plan

Charles Whybrow Ligar (1811-1881) was appointed 6th Surveyor General of Victoria in 1858. It was his aim to reduce survey costs and open the land for settlers. Ligar initially proposed to replace all government surveyors with contractors, a move that was not popular. By 1869, leading politicians were demanding his removal and Ligar resigned in the September of that year.

The Argus newspaper of Saturday 5 February 1859, published on its page 5, the report of Surveyor General Ligar, dated 2 February 1859, on his proposed geodetic system or survey for 1859. This report had been tabled in the Victorian Legislative Assembly the previous night.

The Geodetic Survey – Ligar’s proposal

As the distinctive feature of a geodetic survey is the adoption of the geographical divisions as the skeleton on which the survey into minute subdivisions of the country is to be based, it has been necessary in the first place to determine a standard meridian.

The position of the Williamstown Observatory has been determined by a series of observations extending over several years, and with sufficient accuracy to warrant its adoption as absolute.

As opinions have been hazarded, without a sufficient knowledge of facts, adverse to the absolute accuracy of the standard, tables have been prepared, showing, in extenso, the deductions of all the observations made for longitude which establish the position of the Observatory so completely that it is not considered necessary to say anything more in support of that assumption.

The 145th meridian being the nearest to the Observatory, has been selected as the standard, for which its proximity particularly fits it, the distance between it and the Observatory being less than two miles. Its position was permanently ascertained by means of triangulation, and finally determined by a series of transit observations, compared with others made simultaneously at the Observatory, and communicated by means of the electric telegraph and heliotrope signals.

The position of the meridian having been determined, it next became necessary to trace it northward towards the boundary of the colony. In order to do this without deviation, observing stations were placed at short intervals along the line, from which numerous observations were taken, and the true direction rigidly maintained; so much so, that in the 40 miles already laid down the error of deviation is confidently believed not to exceed 1 inch. (*)

In order to render the meridian immediately available as a basis for minor surveys, it has been determined to establish the point at which the 37th parallel of latitude intersects it, and from thence to trace the parallel to the 144th and the 146th meridians respectively. In effecting this one of the principal difficulties of the work appears. The curvature exhibited by a parallel in traversing a degree of longitude being sufficient to make its tracing a matter of considerable labour and intricacy. To overcome this, it is proposed to make the parallels of latitude to assume the forms of the chords of their curvature, when they would be the segments of great circles, and would not show a greater deviation from their proper curvature than would be represented by the diameter of the chord, equalling about 87 feet, which, in the length of a degree, would be inappreciable.

By adopting this course, the scientific efficacy of the survey would not be practically impaired, while at the same time a large amount of time and labour would be saved.

The first and standard meridian having been established, and the parallels of latitude intersecting it laid down, the determination of other meridians becomes comparatively easy by adopting a system of differentiation, by means of which the maximum error in determining a meridian only one degree distant from the standard is limited to the probability of an insignificant error in the observations for local time, which would seldom amount to more than a fraction of a second of time, and could be destroyed altogether by repeated observations. Each meridian, as it is thus obtained, becomes a standard from which others may be differentially deduced. To facilitate the eventual subdivisions of the large geographical sections contained by the meridians and parallels of latitude, it has been decided that each of them shall be divided into tenths, and tables are in course of preparation calculated on an assumed compression of the earth of 1/300, in which the values of these divisions will be given in terms of ordinary measurements.

The divisions will individually have to be measured by the chain, but will be collectively subjected to the additional test of triangulation, by means of which it is proposed to check and bind up the work done in the first instance astronomically. (#)

This necessary triangulation must not be confounded with a minute trigonometrical survey of the colony, which is not at present intended; but as the measurement of a base line and other preliminary work will have to be done, it can hereafter, if desired, be made available for that purpose, in addition to the end it is intended to answer now.

The nature of a trigonometrical survey is to bind up and determine the distances between certain points. It has its full application in an old country, where every boundary has been set out and marked on the ground and is adapted particularly for the measurement of things as they are found to exist. The peculiar shape of the triangle renders it unsuited as the basis of the subdivisions of land required for sale. If a country were ever so carefully and minutely surveyed trigonometrically, not a single farm or allotment of land would have been marked and set out for occupation.

A trigonometrical survey is adapted for representing things as they are found, and not for creating a new series of artificial boundaries, or for setting out roads.

Contract Surveys

The Geodetic Surveyor having, after the manner described, divided the country most required for settlement, into the geographical divisions, and these again into tenth parts of a degree, will be followed by contract surveyors, who will take up the work where the other left it. The Geodetic Surveyor will have furnished to the office the accurate boundaries of the squares, which will in round numbers be about 30 square miles, or 19,200 acres each.

The four corners of the squares will be permanently defined by stones, carefully imbedded in the ground, with reference marks thereon, to be used for all future measurements.

The length of the lines will be given to the contractor as well as the area of the whole square.

A minute specification, detailing the mode in which everything is to be done, will be given him, being prepared on a general and uniform plan.

He will be required to conform to the usual stipulation as provided for now in all Government contracts.

His work will demand but moderate scientific equipments, and will consist, in the greater part, of the manual labour of digging trenches, numbering and preparing the corner pegs, and marking trees, which it will be his interest to get done well but expeditiously.

He will be required, nevertheless, to hold a certificate of the necessary qualifications.

He will have ample directions as to the main lines of roads, sites for towns and villages.

He will not be paid until the work has been checked by a diagonal line across the survey, and by the personal examination on the ground of the Government Inspecting Surveyor.

The area of each lot he sets out will thus be checked, and the sum of the parts; including the spaces occupied by roads and water, will be required to correspond to the area of the square handed over to him. This will ensure as great an amount of accuracy as now obtained, and more uniformity.

It may be said that the Contract Surveyor will not have so much interest in returning good work; but it is found in practice that he has more at stake than many of the persons holding appointments.

With reference to the fear that has been expressed, that the marks will be obliterated before the land is sold; if a few of the marks should be destroyed by the passage of vehicles, as will always be the case, their position can easily be found by measuring to the sunk stone reference marks in the neighbourhood, or to adjoining lots. As to the commencement of the contract system, and its being made to work into the present plan of employing Government surveyors, without causing an inconvenient delay, there now may be some difficulty. It is desirable that it might be brought about gradually, and for this purpose authority should be given to the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys to substitute, as he may think necessary, a portion of the vote for salaries and wages of laborers for the cost of surveys by contract, or, in the event of Parliament voting a given sum for contracts, the reverse might then be authorised in case of need, and a portion of the money devoted to salaries and wages instead of to contracts.

(*) The principal astronomical instrument used in the work is an 18-inch altazimuth, which, from its great solidity and faithful construction, has been available not only for extra meridional observations, but as a transit instrument.

Next in importance to the altazimuth instrument comes the time keepers, consisting of one sidereal and two mean time chronometers. In addition to these there is a portable transit instrument, a 12-inch theodolite and two Munich heliotropes for the use of which the department has been indebted to Professor Neumayer.

The observations adopted to determine the meridian were chiefly of circumpolar and high and low stars, from which are deduced the local time and the true direction. Moon culminations differentially compared with others taken at the observatory at Williamstown, have been obtained, as affording an additional check on the accuracy of the determination.

The astronomical value of the arcs of meridians contained between the several observing stations has been also determined by extra meridional and polar observations. The use of the heliotrope - an instrument of recent construction - has afforded extraordinary facilities in tracing and has enabled the stations to be made at for greater distances than could otherwise have been done, besides rendering the placing of distant points both quick and certain.

(#) It is satisfactory and will be of great use to the future operations of the Geodetic Survey to have the valuable advice and assistance of such an eminent astronomer as Professor Airy; his past experience in Geodesy is well known.

He has already, in reply to Mr Ellery, F.R.A.S., Superintendent of the Astronomical Observatory, Williamstown, to whom the Geodetic Survey is mainly to be entrusted, prepared and forwarded tables for insuring accuracy in the geographical determination, which will be used in future.


Ellery’s Assessment

When the Victorian government founded an astronomical observatory in July 1853, Robert Lewis John Ellery (1827-1908) was placed in charge. At this time the Victorian government observatory was only a small two room cottage at Williamstown. At the beginning of 1858 the Victorian government founded another observatory known as the magnetic observatory on Flagstaff Hill, West Melbourne, under the distinguished German scientist, Georg von Neumayer. Neumayer had originally applied for a site in the Domain south of the Yarra without success. Both Ellery and Neumayer subsequently found that the sites given them were not suitable for their work, but it was not until 1863 that a move was made to the Domain. The observatory on this site remains today adjacent to the Shrine of Remembrance. With the creation of Melbourne Observatory in 1863, Ellery was appointed Government Astronomer, a position he would retain until his retirement in 1895.


As part of his role as Superintendent of the Melbourne Astronomical Observatory, Ellery was given carriage of Ligar’s survey. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the geodetic survey was the establishment of the straight line portion of the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Also known as the Black-Allan line, after the surveyors involved, the line that runs from Cape Howe to the nearest source of the River Murray (the springs found near a hill then called Forest Hill, on a spur of The Pilot, were accepted as the source of the Murray nearest Cape Howe. These springs had previously been discovered as the source of the Murray River by surveyor Thomas Scott Townsend in 1846. This location today is officially named Indi Springs and Townsend Corner).


The Gippsland Times newspaper of Saturday 6 May 1871, reported on page 3 that : the geodetic survey of the boundary line between Victoria and New South Wales had been completed. The survey was commenced on the Werribee plains and was continued along the East Coast through Gippsland to Cape Howe. Starting again from the Werribee plains the line was run through the Benalla and Beechworth districts to Forest Hill, where the azimuth was determined, Cape Howe being made the true point. The work has been done by Victoria, half the cost being borne by New South Wales. The survey was made under the direction of Mr Ellery, the Government Astronomer, whose instructions were successfully carried out by Mr Black and the other members of the geodetic survey.


Four years after Ligar’s departure from the position of Surveyor General, the Argus newspaper of Monday 7 July 1873, published on its page 6, a report by Ellery as Superintendent of the Geodetic Survey. The report had been compiled in response to a request by the then Honourable James Joseph Casey (1831-1913) MP, Minister of Lands and Agriculture. Ellery’s report had been tabled in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on the night of Thursday 3 July 1873.


The Geodetic Survey – Ellery’s Report

In accordance with your request I have now the honour to report to you upon the present condition of the Geodetic Survey of Victoria and also to state my opinion concerning the further prosecution of the work with a view that the objects for which it was undertaken shall be completely attained.

Before entering upon the special questions, I shall however venture to give a brief historical sketch of the work from its commencement till the present time.

In the year 1858 I was called upon to initiate and carry out a system of general survey of the colony similar to the meridian and parallel survey of the United States of America with a view to facilitate the rapid survey of the whole colony by contract. The method was advised by the then surveyor general Mr Ligar and approved of by Government and was styled the geodetic survey. It provided for dividing up the whole colony into primary and secondary divisions bounded by meridians and parallels the larger divisions being square geographical degrees of the earth’s surface, the smaller hundredths of square degrees, and containing on the average 25,000 acres and these areas it was contemplated should be subdivided for settlement by contract surveyors. The plan of survey was approved but the general scheme by which Mr Ligar proposed to complete the whole work in four years was not.

The meridian and parallel survey was commenced in July 1858 but only with a very small staff; the progress was consequently slow and the rapid demand for surveys consequent upon the administration of the various Land Acts soon made it apparent that it would be necessary to largely depart from the method first proposed by Mr Ligar in order to include the necessary areas in widely different parts of the colony. In 1860 for instance the Nicholson Act came into force, and in 1862 the Duffy Act was introduced which made it incumbent on the department to have surveyed, proclaimed and declared open for selection 4,000,000 acres in portions varying from 40 to 640 acres. To meet those requirements, I proposed the measurement of a standard base line and the prosecution of a primary triangulation. This proposition was approved and acted on in 1859, and the triangulation has rapidly progressed ever since and is now almost complete throughout the country so that with the exception of the north western districts and some other more limited areas there is scarcely any part now in which an isolated survey could not be at once accurately fixed with relation to other surveys however remote, and plotted in its place on the maps with great precision. The meridian and parallel system was nevertheless carried out over very large areas of the unalienated portions of the colony as will be seen by reference to the progress map. Most of these areas were subsequently subdivided for settlement by departmental or contract surveyors. By means of the triangulation remote parts of the colony were soon joined together with the greatest precision both as regards distance and position; the geographical positions of nearly all the prominent features and places in the colony determined; the coastline trigonometrically surveyed, enabling the Admiralty surveyors to carry on their operations with much greater expedition and accuracy than they could otherwise have done; and further the extension of the triangulation a year or two since to the easternmost parts of the colony both on the north and the south, enabled the geodetic surveyors to mark out the boundary line between New South Wales and Victoria with all desirable accuracy. The operations of the survey have included much detail work scarcely necessary to refer to at any length here but among others may be specially mentioned that for connecting existing surveys to the trigonometrical points or lines or to the meridian and parallel lines in either case binding up scattered and defectively plotted surveys into the measurement plan so as to represent them on maps as they actually are on the ground. Much of this has been done; but as it became manifest that so small a staff of surveyors could not complete this except after a long time and that increasing settlement added month by month numerous surveys rapidly and not over accurately made with all the errors inherent in the old ones to which they were connected, I on many occasions requested the Surveyor General to make it as far as possible imperative on departmental and contract surveyors to connect all new work with either trigonometrical points or geodetic survey lines and marks which were available in nearly every district where surveys were being made, so that all new work might be at once sufficiently connected with our measurement series without further interference from the geodetic surveyors. In accordance with my request I believe the requisite instructions were issued to district and contract surveyors whether they were acted upon or not, except in some few instances, I am not aware.

The early impressions conveyed to Parliament and the public by Mr Ligar’s proposition to complete the survey in four years provided funds were voted sufficient to carry out his plans were not entirely altered by the fact that the funds were not voted and that only a fraction of the staff at first intended was actually employed on the work. It was not therefore to be wondered at that frequent questions were asked by Ministers and by Parliament as to the probable duration of the geodetic survey. The item on the Estimates for this survey was usually challenged, principally I believe because the nature and value of the work being done was neither understood nor appreciated. In 1870 such large reductions were made in the vote for this survey that four out of seven parties engaged on it bad to be disbanded and any further progress except on the boundary line virtually stopped. In a memorandum forwarded to the honourable the Commissioner of Lands and Survey (Mr Macpherson) on the 4th of June 1870, I pointed out the injury that was in my opinion being done by the sudden withdrawal of the subsidy for this work.

Since that time the amounts voted for geodetic survey have been very small and after the completion of the boundary line in 1872 only one officer and party has been actually engaged on the geodetic survey in the field. Messrs Allan and Black having been removed into charge of districts as district surveyors.

At the present time the staff engaged consists of Mr Thornhill in charge of computations and drawings, Mr Turton in charge of field party in Gipps Land; besides a draughtsman, computer, and a field party of labourers.

The present state of the geodetic survey will best be seen by reference to the progress map which shows the extent of the meridian and parallel survey of the primary triangulation and an approximate idea of the areas over which the detail surveys may be considered to be fairly connected.

The trigonometrical work laid down indicates that the true bearings and distances in feet between one point and another and the geographical position of each point are accurately determined.

It was decided at the outset to plot all the work on one uniform plan of four inches to the mile, in what are termed division sheets comprising a 1/100th square geographical degree.

By reference to the progress map it will be seen that the colony has been divided into primary divisions of square geographical degrees lettered alphabetically; the divisions are 1/100ths of these in area and are numbered from 1 to 100 in each degree. The division plan on the scale of four inches to the mile is the one actually plotted by the geodetic surveyor specimens of which are appended at AA. These are reduced in the office to a scale of half an inch to the mile and plotted on block sheets containing one of the full primary divisions (specimens appended marked BB). All the geodetic work has been plotted on these maps and all surveys old and new which are connected have also been plotted on these block sheets which constitute, so far as they go, accurate index maps. Several of these block sheets have been engraved though none are quite filled in. All the computations from the commencement of the survey are carefully preserved and are now in course of final revision preliminary to the preparation of an official account and description of the survey operations so far as they have extended and of the various methods completed.

The following is a summary of completed work :

-      Number of trigonometrical stations established and fixed 257.

-      Areas included within geodetic divisions 6,468,000 acres or 264 divisions, containing on an average 24,500 acres each. Of these 264 divisions, all except about 20 have been subdivided by contract surveyors.

-      Approximate area, of old surveys connected with the triangulation 12,785 square miles; much of this connection however can be considered sufficiently accurate only for the half inch index maps.

You have requested me to give my opinion concerning the further prosecution of this survey, in order that its objects may be fully attained for the benefit of the department and the colony.

In the first place, I would point out that the whole area of the colony with the exception referred to has been triangulated with a primary triangulation almost equal in accuracy to any in the world depending upon one base line, which was measured with all the refinement that the skill and instrumental means then at our command would admit, and sufficiently accurate I believe, for the purposes of the most refined survey of a territory. The trigonometrical points - chiefly mountain tops - have been established at a great cost of money and of endurance on the part of officers and men engaged. These points are all recoverable at any time as they are marked by permanent marks buried in the ground but the visible stations are many of them decaying and getting overgrown with young timber.

The meridian lines and parallels are for the most part utilised and fix the positions of the areas surveyed and settled within them for all time as they appear in the departmental plans; where not so utilised the marks though recoverable are becoming overgrown and every year more difficult to recover. Much of the area already surveyed and settled has been carefully connected by connecting lines run from one trigonometrical point to another; but a vast deal more is perfectly unconnected, badly surveyed and if laid down on the ground as they appear on the official plans would be found to present overlapping boundaries and a confusion that none but competent surveyors who have had re-surveys and connections to make would credit. This state of things has been and is rapidly growing, I am of opinion that the triangulation of the colony should be thoroughly completed and the marks and stations preserved and renovated from time to time with great care; for to these must always be referred any question of erroneous position or measurement and upon them must depend the accuracy of position etc of all new surveys.

In order to complete the triangulation, it will be necessary to fill up such districts not already sufficiently covered and even perhaps in some cases to carry out a smaller triangulation for facility of connection, and further two base lines of verification should be measured one on our western boundary and one in Gipps Land to close and verify the triangulation. As regards the preservation and occasional renovation of all important marks and stations, I think the best plan would be to place this duty in charge of district surveyors and the local land officers, the cost to be defrayed from a small annual vote for the special purpose but whatever arrangements are made should be very stringent and requiring a yearly report of the inspection state and repairs of permanent survey marks and stations.

The necessity for vigorously prosecuting some accurate method of revising and connecting the vast areas that have been surveyed for lease or sale within the last few years in accordance with the more recent land acts especially the desultory surveys under the 42nd section of 1805 and the present act, cannot be doubted for it must he remembered that most of these latter surveys have been made by contract under circumstances that put it out of the question that they have been made with the accuracy and precision that is expected from a departmental surveyor. The truth of this proposition has been evident wherever revisions, resurveys or examinations of contract surveys have been made. This in my opinion is a matter of the most serious importance and requires energetic measures to avoid the confusion and trouble which fell upon the Canadian lands department many years from similar causes.

It is not an easy matter to decide upon the best and most economical method of dealing with this part of the question. I believe in many places nothing short of a complete resurvey will be found sufficient but over the greater part of the colony a proper system of connecting lines would most economically and effectually meet the difficulty, if it became incumbent on district or inspecting officers to see that all new surveys are properly connected before passing them and that every old survey existing in his district be gradually, accurately, and carefully tied to these connecting lines or to the trigonometrical points themselves.

To carry this into effect I propose that a few officers be selected to run these connecting lines (equivalent to the secondary triangulation of Great Britain and other countries) and that in doing so a most complete system of marks and stations on all roads and permanent tracks should be instituted so that both departmental and contract surveyors would have no difficulty whatever in finding their connecting points and lines.

If such a system be carried out thoroughly and effectually with earnest cooperation of every departmental officer, whether a geodetic surveyor or not, I am of opinion that as nearly as is now possible the full object of the trigonometrical and geodetic survey will he obtained for the detail survey of the colony.

A more complete and accurate but at the same time more expensive method for obtaining the same ends would be to complete the original geodetic square method the same as shown on the block plans by which the meridians and parallels of every tenth degree would be run in all surveyed districts.

The North Western or Wimmera district is not suited for a trigonometrical survey and the triangulation has not therefore been extended through it; the land however in this part of the colony is now being largely selected, and as it is of the greatest importance that the accumulation of detached and unconnected surveys should as far as possible be avoided. I recommend that a meridian and parallel survey should be extended in that locality without delay.

You requested me to give my opinion as to the cost and time likely to be occupied in completing the geodetic survey. This I regret I cannot estimate. It has occupied from two to seven survey parties from July 1858 to the beginning of 1872 to do what has already been done m this colony. The Ordnance survey of Great Britain has been going on for over 50 years; the trigonometrical survey of India for at least 30 and is still in progress. No true approximate estimate of either the cost or the time could be made in our case I believe. The work will have to be done sooner or later, the sooner it is done the less I believe it will cost. It will cost much more to recommence now than to have continued three years ago. I would recommend that if carried out it should be recommenced on a moderate scale at first and if it be afterwards found desirable or necessary to push it, the staff might be increased; but to attempt it with any sense of limitation would, I believe, have the effect of hurrying operations that require the utmost care and skill.

The early intention of plotting all the geodetic work and connections upon the division sheets of four inches to the mile has not been carried out owing to the inadequacy of the staff - the only work appearing upon these plans being the actual lines run in enclosing the blocks and the connections made in doing so as will be seen by reference to sheets AA. Four inches to the mile is the smallest scale admissible for plans which are necessary and intended to be used for reference and from which quantities could be taken with any degree of precision. The half inch block sheets are of the greatest value as index maps but the objects of the geodetic survey will not be realised unless the whole work be laid down on the four inch scale. The ordinary parish plans of the department are plotted on this scale but as most of this work has been done without any general scheme of connection between one parish and another it will be I believe absolutely necessary to intersect them with connecting lines before they can be correctly combined. I am therefore of opinion that the further prosecution of the geodetic survey should include the plotting of all the work on a scale of 4 inches to the mile.

I hope I have made myself sufficiently clear in the foregoing and have not omitted any part of the subject upon which you desire information. I would beg to refer you to the memorandum to the Hon. the Commissioner of Lands and Survey, forwarded on the 4th of June 1870; and should you desire any detailed information as to the modes of operation adopted in the geodetic survey or description of the work I would also beg to refer you to a draft report on the geodetic survey dated 7th November 1872 which I append marked C.


Historical Experience Disregarded

This example of the Victorian government’s intransigence to the surveying and mapping of its colony, followed a similar occurrence in the earlier colony of New South Wales. Both governments wanted organised settlement but neither wanted to pay for it to occur. Thus, surveying and mapping in these colonies was under resourced and dragged on, ending up costing more. In this Victorian case we have Ellery’s verdict on the state of play as reported to his Minister. What is most striking in Ellery’s report is his brutal honesty to the Minister who had requested the cost and time for completing the geodetic survey. This I regret I cannot estimate, Ellery reported. He then basically said that the geodetic survey will take as long as is needed and cost what it costs. Further, Ellery said : the work will have to be done sooner or later, the sooner it is done the less I believe it will cost.

Despite these early experiences, it is unfortunate that similar occurrences were to repeat in Australia, under successive governments, in other places, at later times! This is evidenced by the following 1936 report, published on page 18 of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper of Friday 4 September 1936. Under the sequential headings Detail Map of Australia; Surveyors Consider Work Necessary; Conference Begins, the article reports on the first day of the fifth biennial conference of the Australian Surveyors' Institutes, from which the following are extracted :

Speaking on geodetic, topographical and triangulation surveys, Mr HS McComb (Victoria) said that the Commonwealth Government had come to realise that a coordination of the surveys of the States was necessary. Each State had started its surveys without any relation to those of the other States. The Defence Department had realised the seriousness of the position, and had begun to coordinate the work. The goal of all Surveyors' Institutes should be to map Australia. When surveyors had to define boundaries or undertake an engineering or other survey, the information they obtained would be passed on and used in preparing the maps of Australia.


Major TA Vance, commanding officer of the Australian Survey Corps, said that the department had made a triangulation survey from Werribee (Victoria) to Adelaide, and then to Tarlee [some 75 kilometres north of Adelaide], for military purposes. This survey had shown that the detail surveys were accurate…Mr CL Alexander (South Australia) said that the conference should give its full support to the work of the Military Department, and urge the Federal Government to extend the operations of the Military Department. The South Australian Government had spent £2,000 on making a detail map of the city and suburbs, but it was practically useless, because to make the plan square, the area north of Port Adelaide had been cut off.


Mr GV Little (Victoria) moved that the conference should urge upon the Federal Government the need to establish a central authority for the mapping of Australia, similar to the body in Great Britain. The motion was seconded by Mr HG Foxhall (New South Wales). The vote was adjourned…to enable the motion to be drafted.


History tells us that it was a world war impacting Australia, and another 10 years before the Commonwealth Government realised that its State and Federal predecessors had left us vulnerable without adequate mapping of the country. Even so, programs vital to finally completing a national map coverage of Australia were continually under resourced throughout the late 20th century.   


Compiled by Paul Wise 2018, with thanks to Laurie McLean for his uncovering the newspaper articles.