Surveying - a changing profession

How many people still visualise a “Surveyor” as a rough and rugged individual, setting  off for the bush to parts unknown with a pack horse and a menagerie trailing behind in his wake.  Ah, such a romantic picture of days gone by -  but what of  to-day’s image? A dusty and sweaty forlorn type bashing in pegs to get the linen plan to Council before the client (oblivious to the monsoonal conditions) rings a fourth time complaining of delays?  A cool calm professional sitting in the office, e-mailing, downloading off the net, consulting the latest GIS database and forwarding valuable information down into cyberspace?

What can the surveyor of today do to help the community at large and their client in particular. (I’ve decided to use “their” as the collective pronoun, rather than get tied up with continual reference to he/she or his/hers, for certainly, the profession of surveying today is finally growing away from a 100% male dominated profession).

There are many areas in which surveyors involve themselves, construction setouts, identification surveys, monitoring structure deformations, flood surveys, boundary determinations to name but a few. In particular, since this article appears in the Developers Digest, I have decided to muse on the activities of the Consulting Surveyor.  What is a Consulting Surveyor? 

A Consulting Surveyor is a member of the Association of Consulting Surveyors (ACS) and is Registered under the Surveyor’s Act, for cadastral work. As such those surveyors so registered carry the statutory responsibilities for the establishment of land boundaries and land titles.  Each ACS member is bound by a strict code of ethics.

As with many professions, some Consulting Surveyors specialise in different fields, such as civil engineering design and supervision, development appeals or community scheme subdivisions.

What questions should developers be asking of the Consulting Surveyor?

What is the best way to title your latest visionary project?  Conventional subdivision, stratum subdivision, strata scheme, community scheme?  A combination of some? Your Consulting Surveyor can advise you. If the title system is not planned up front, a designer may deny the project the flexibility that title planning offers.

Is my development encumbered by so many environmental problems that it makes the project unthinkable? – Did I hear you say problems?  No.!, challenges, opportunities!  The surveyor is uniquely placed in preparing the Development Application and the Statement of Environment Effects (SEE) to pull together the flora/fauna, contamination, aboriginal heritage, solar access, ecological sustainable development principles (to name but a few), and come up with a development with a lot layout or community scheme or innovative combination of titling systems or innovative engineering design that not only answers environmental concerns, but may enhance our environment.  The Olympic site certainly turned the existence of their frog population from a problem to a situation where the frogs are used in their advertising campaign.

What about the latest buzz word – private accreditation.  Does the surveyor have any role to play in this process? Indeed so.  Surveyors have their own accreditation scheme, run by the PSOA (Professional Surveyors Occupational Association).  The association is preparing to certify Accredited Certifiers (AC) and Principal Certifier-Subdivision (PC-S).  For the developer, this will allow them to have their subdivision engineering designs approved by a PC-S, and also have all the site works inspected and approved.  Linen plans can be signed by a PC-S once Council empower this through their LEP’s. (Orange Council allows this at present).  Also from July,  Accredited Certifiers can sign Strata Plans in place of the Local Council.  This is certainly a changing role for the profession.

But what about GDA?  Linen plans are no longer of ISG co-ordinates with ISG north, but new fangled co-ordinates with a Geo-centric Datum.  This will make GPS and GIS with satellite geodesy so much more workable with the cadastre.  What the hell am I talking about?   - just another exciting change for the surveying profession to grab by the throat and throw into our bag of tricks.

Sometimes, as I am lying in bed, and I have just put down the latest discussion paper on amendments to the EP&A Act, and as I reach for the latest amendments to the Community Land Development Act, I close my eyes and picture myself with a pack horse hitched to my steed, as I set off for parts unknown with a menagerie trailing behind…

Gordon Wren
Of Grinsell & Johns
For the Association of Consulting Surveyors, NSW.