The National Mapping Council of Australia and the Division of National Mapping : Two entities – One objective!

 

In February 1944, Frederick Marshall Johnston succeeded Arthur Percival ISO to become the fourth Commonwealth Surveyor General and the Commonwealth Government’s Chief Property Officer in the Department of the Interior, Canberra. In his 1962 book, Knights and Theodolites: a Saga of Surveyors, Johnston stated Immediately on taking up my new position, I gave attention to the question of mapping our continent…the 1939-45 War brought a scramble to endeavour to improve our mapping, but there was no central authority to coordinate the efforts of the various Commonwealth and State authorities concerned.

Johnston’s awareness of the need for a central authority to coordinate the mapping of Australia, and a long history of government giving too low a priority to such mapping was no doubt behind the August 1944 meeting of the Commonwealth Survey Committee that passed several resolutions including one which recommended that the Commonwealth Surveyor General and the Commonwealth Survey Committee confer with the State Surveyors General at their next meeting.

The recommended meeting was held in January 1945 in Canberra and became the Conference on National Survey and Mapping of Australia. The following relevant resolutions from that meeting were adopted unanimously :

That this conference is of opinion that a National Mapping Council is essential for the coordination of the mapping activities of Australia, and recommends to the Commonwealth and State Governments that such Council be established as a permanent body, comprising the Commonwealth Surveyor General, who shall be Chairman, a member of the Commonwealth Survey Committee, who shall represent that Committee, and one representative of each State, who shall be its Surveyor General and shall represent the coordinated requirements of his State. The expression 'coordination, of the mapping activities of Australia' shall be subject to the recognised policy of the Services to control, their respective mapping activities, provided that where practicable the standard of all work shall not be less than the minimum requirements of the National Mapping Council. The functions of the National Mapping Council to be as follows :

 

To assist in the implementation of the decisions of this and subsequent conferences.

 

 

To coordinate and correlate mapping on a national basis.

 

 

To determine standard methods and minimum accuracy of requirements of trigonometrical surveys.

 

 

To determine approved methods and minimum standards of accuracy for photogrammetry and cartography.

 

 

Subject to reference to appropriate authorities to recommend mapping priorities where Commonwealth assistance is involved, except in the case of Service requirements.

 

 

To recommend the allocation of Commonwealth funds provided for national mapping.

 

That subject to the adoption of the principle of the [above] Resolution, this conference recommends the appointment of the Commonwealth Surveyor General as Director of National Mapping, who shall be responsible for the coordination of the activities of Commonwealth and State Authorities in planning and carrying out the national mapping of Australia with full regard to the recommendations of the National Mapping Council. It is the opinion of the conference that the additional duties and responsibilities which would be placed on the Surveyor General by the adoption of this Resolution would necessitate the appointment of a Deputy Surveyor General.

By March 1945, then Prime Minister John Curtin (1885-1945) had obtained the agreement of the State Premiers to a coordinated national mapping program and the formation of a National Mapping Council. Curtin announced on Tuesday 6 March 1945 that there was full Cabinet approval for the establishment of a National Mapping Council (Campbell, 2008). Subsequently, the first National Mapping Council Meeting was held in Melbourne during September 1945 with the chair taken by FM Johnston; who then held responsibility as Director of National Mapping and chair of the National Mapping Council as well as those of Commonwealth Surveyor General and the Commonwealth's Chief Property Officer.

First two Directors of National Mapping (L-R) :

Frederick Marshall Johnston (1885-1963), and John Noble Core Rogers ISO (1898-1971).

 

By September 1945, national mapping coordination activities had grown to such an extent that the position of a Deputy Director of National Mapping to assist Johnston was advertised. Major Bruce Philip Lambert, then stationed on Morotai Island a northern part of the Dutch East Indies in the Pacific Ocean, applied for the position and was appointed on Thursday 21 March 1946 (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No.53, pp.749). In 1947, Lambert headed the Public Service Board’s established National Mapping Section within the Property and Survey Branch of the Department of Interior. The new section was to have 53 personnel in three sections: National Mapping Records Information and Research, Photogrammetric Survey and Cartographic. The new National Mapping Section continued to occupy the same offices as the Department of Interior cartographic staff who were transferred to form the first working component. These offices were in the original Department of Interior complex at Acton on the north side of the Molonglo River, this land is now part of the bed of Lake Burley Griffin. Owing to an accommodation shortage in Canberra however, in 1948 the Photogrammetric Survey section was accommodated in Melbourne.

John Noble Core Rogers ISO (1898-1971) replaced Frederick Marshall Johnston as Commonwealth Surveyor General and Director of National Mapping on 24 March 1949. Johnston retired on 28 March 1949 at 64 years of age, well past his preferred retirement age of 60 years. Following 31 May 1951 restructuring within the Department of the Interior, which placed additional Australian Capital Territory planning responsibilities on Rogers, a separate position of Director of National Mapping was created in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Prime Minister and Premiers agreed to this officer also taking over as Chairman of the National Mapping Council (Rogers continued as a council member until his retirement in 1963). Also in 1951, the National Mapping Section was renamed the National Mapping Office having Bruce Lambert (later Dr BP Lambert OBE), the third Director of National Mapping, at its head.

Major General Reginald Llewellyn Bruno Brown, then Director General Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, was invited to Australia in 1951. Brown’s brief was to examine and report on key aspects of Australian topographic mapping to the Minister for the Department of the Army. The Commonwealth government’s response to Brown’s report was to establish, on 22 July 1954, the Department of the Interior as the responsible authority for topographic surveys and mapping in Australia.

The Department of National Development had first been created on 16 March 1950 as notified in Commonwealth Gazette, No.15. It was established for the purposes of planning and coordinating the development of natural resources on a national basis. On 24 May 1956, then Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1894-1978), announced in Parliament that the National Mapping function of the Interior was to be transferred to the Department of National Development. The House of Representatives Official Hansard, No.21, of Thursday 24 May 1956, on page 2451 for the Twenty-Second Parliament, First Session-First Period, recorded under Ministerial Arrangements, Mr Menzies: As a part of the rearrangement of functions consequent upon the creation of the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry, I have approved of the assumption of new responsibilities by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner)…The second change is the transfer of the national mapping functions from the Department of the Interior to the Department of National Development, which I think is appropriate. These changes will be effective immediately. They will be the subject, in due course, of formal notification in an administrative arrangements order.

The arrangements announced by Menzies were formalised in the Commonwealth Gazette No.43 of 9 August 1956, where all existing third and fourth division positions in the National Mapping Section of the Department of the Interior were abolished. The following week, in Commonwealth Gazette No.47 of 16 August 1956, a new position of Director of National Mapping was created in the second division within the Division of National Mapping in the Department of National Development. The office of the Director of National Mapping within the Department of National Development had been created by Executive Council Minute of 2 August 1956. Further in Gazette No.47, all other National Mapping Section third and fourth division positions previously abolished in the Department of the Interior were recreated with equal division, designation, classification and location in the Division of National Mapping. From the operational side, the transition from Interior to National Development had occurred on 2 July 1956, that day being the first working day of the new fiscal year.

The Division of National Mapping was initially responsible for geodesy and medium and small scale topographic mapping required for Commonwealth purposes, for coordinating these activities with those of the States, for making thematic maps of Australia and its territories, for provision of an astronomical time service for Australia, for the sale of maps and air photographs and for the provision of reproduction material and data used in map making. In 1971 and later years, the responsibilities for making bathymetric maps of Australia and its territories, for providing technical advice on international maritime boundaries, for the provision of digital data used in map making, and the reception, archiving, processing and distribution of satellite imagery, were added.

The National Mapping Council at its April 1963 meeting, had resolved that its Resolution 269, be that The Commonwealth proceed forthwith in the preparation of topographic maps at scales of 1: 250,000 and 1: 100,000 with contours shown at appropriate metre intervals. In 1965, the then Minister for National Development, David Eric Fairbairn, recommended to Cabinet that my Department be authorised to organise and engage on a programme of topographic mapping with the object of completing the map coverage of Australia at 1: 100,000 scale by the end of 1975. This proposal was supported by the Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Mapping and the Minister for Defence. The Committee was of the opinion that most defence and civilian mapping requirements would be satisfied by the 1: 100,000 scale maps and that the expected limited demand for 1: 50,000 scale maps could be met with sufficient accuracy by photographic enlargement. In its decision No.1280 of 18 September 1965, Cabinet decided that the programme of topographic mapping should be accelerated with the object of completing the mapping coverage of Australia at 1: 100,000 (1.6 miles to 1 inch) scale with contours at a 20 metre (66 feet) vertical interval, by the end of 1975…and that the Department of National Development should…be authorised to organise and engage upon the programme.

Last three Directors of National Mapping (L-R) :

Dr Bruce Philip Lambert OBE (1912-1990), Anthony Gerald Bomford (1927-2003), and Con Veenstra.

 

While Lambert headed both the National Mapping Council and the Division of National Mapping, these two entities and their functions were discrete and independent. The Division of National Mapping (DNM but more commonly known as Natmap) was the Commonwealth’s civilian topographic survey and mapping agency. The Division’s programs were coordinated with those of the other agencies by the National Mapping Council thus maintaining national standards and avoiding unnecessary duplication. Divisional officers also served on the National Mapping Council’s committees and the National Mapping Council Secretariat was provided by the Division.

The National Mapping Council was a coordination forum that did not undertake mapping work in its own right. Investigative studies or the compilation of standards and specifications were undertaken by Technical Sub-Committees or Advisory Committees formed by the Council members nominating appropriate staff from their own agencies. The work or recommendations of these committees then went to the full Council for consideration or ratification where appropriate.

Lambert continued as Director of National Mapping and chair of the National Mapping Council until retirement in 1977, followed by Anthony Gerald Bomford until 1982 and Con Veenstra until 1987. The NMC held its final meeting in November 1986 at which some members indicated the need for a body with a wider remit that also addressed other survey related matters. The Council was subsequently formally dissolved by agreement between the heads of the various governments.

From September 1945 to November 1986 the National Mapping Council held 44 formal meetings at which 430 resolutions and other arrangements were agreed. A listing of the NMC Meetings including their date(s), place, and attendance can be found here. A summary of the NMC resolutions extant in 1988 can be viewed here.

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NATIONAL MAPPING COUNCIL FORTY THIRD MEETING 1985

Head Office Boardroom of the State Bank of South Australia, Adelaide

Standing L-R: Mr L.W. McLean, Mr K.H. Smith, Mr D.M. Grant, Mr V.F. Urban, Mr P.J. Wells, Capt. J.J. Doyle, AM, RAN

Seated L-R: Mr J.W. Sleep, Col. A.W. Laing, Mr R.E. Holmes, Mr C. Veenstra, Mr R.G. Roberts, Mr W.G. Henderson

 

Mr C. Veenstra – Chairman, Director Division of National Mapping

Col. A.W. Laing - Director of Survey Army

Capt. J.J. Doyle, AM, RAN – Director Hydrographic Office RAN

Mr J.W. Sleep - Commonwealth Surveyor General

Mr K.H. Smith - Director of Mapping Queensland

Mr V.F. Urban - Director Central Mapping Authority NSW

Mr R.E. Holmes - Surveyor General Victoria

Mr R.G. Roberts - Director of Mapping Tasmania

Mr D.M. Grant - Acting Surveyor General South Australia

Mr W.G. Henderson – A/g Surveyor General WA

Mr P.J. Wells - Surveyor General Northern Territory

Mr L.W. McLean – Secretariat Division of National Mapping

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NATIONAL MAPPING COUNCIL FORTY FOURTH MEETING 1986

In the grounds of the Northside Gardens Hotel, North Sydney

L – Right : Mr V.F. Urban, Mr J.R. Cattell, Mr E.M. Willcock, Col. A.W. Laing, Mr H.J. Houghton, Rear Admiral N. Ralph, AM, DSC, RAN, Mr J.W. Sleep,

Mr C. Veenstra, Mr L.W. McLean, Cpt. J.S. Compton, RAN, Mr K.J. Davies, Mr B.H. Bridges, Mr R.E. Holmes

 

Mr C. Veenstra – Chairman, Director Division of National Mapping

Col. A.W. Laing - Director of Survey Army

Capt. J.S. Compton – Hydrographer RAN

Mr J.W. Sleep - Commonwealth Surveyor General

Mr K.J. Davies - Director of Mapping Queensland

Mr V.F. Urban - Director Central Mapping Authority NSW

Mr R.E. Holmes - Surveyor General Victoria

Mr J.R. Cattell - Director of Mapping Tasmania

Mr B.H. Bridges - Surveyor General South Australia

Mr H.J. Houghton – A/g Surveyor General WA

Mr E.M. Willcock- Mapping and Information Division NT

Mr L.W. McLean – Secretariat Division of National Mapping

Building on the council’s four decades of successful cooperative coordination of national mapping activities, an Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping was established in 1988. This committee had a broader remit that addressed both surveying and mapping matters. As with the earlier National Mapping Council, the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping was established by agreement between the heads of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. Its membership comprises senior representatives from relevant agencies in the various jurisdictions; including the defence forces and New Zealand.

The National Mapping Council of Australia Forty Years On by BP Lambert was published in The Australian Surveyor in December 1985, and is reproduced here with permission.

 

It is perhaps fitting that a monument to FM Johnston, the Council he helped to create, and to a similar extent, the Division of National Mapping is as Lambert wrote in 1968:…‘on a lonely granite outcrop near the place where the road from Alice Springs to Port Augusta crosses the South Australian border’. This monument, the Johnston Geodetic Station, stands surrounded by the deserts and plains which were National Mapping’s responsibility to survey and map and is now readily remembered only by those of that era.

 

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The Johnston Geodetic Station

Source: Laurie McLean, 2012

 

Thanks to Con Veenstra and Laurie Mclean for the NMC photos and for ensuring that the captions were correct.

 

Compiled by Paul Wise, 2015, updated 2017. 

 

 

References

Campbell, Heather (2008), Tuesday 6 March 1945 in 1945 Prime Minister from Diary of a Labor Man 1917-1945, published by John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library; accessed from the Curtin University website at: http://john.curtin.edu.au/diary/primeminister/1945.html

 

Commonwealth of Australia (2017), Australian Government, Federal Register of Legislation, Historic Gazettes, accessed at : https://www.legislation.gov.au/content/HistoricGazettes

 

Johnston, Frederick Marshall (1962), Knights and Theodolites: a Saga of Surveyors, Edwards and Shaw, Sydney.

 

Lambert, Bruce Philip, (1968), The Johnston Geodetic Survey Station, The Australian Surveyor, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp 93-96.

 

Parliament of the Commonwealth-House of Representatives (1956), Statement by Mr RG Menzies, Prime Minister, in Official Hansard, No 21, 1956, Thursday 24 May 1956, page 2451, Twenty-Second Parliament, First Session-First Period; By Authority of the House of Representatives; accessed from Parliament of Australia website at:http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/hansard80/hansardr80/1956-05-24/toc_pdf/19560524_reps_22_hor10.pdf;fileType=application/pdf#search=%221950s%201956%22