Surveyor General of New South Wales

The Surveyor-General of New South Wales is the primary government authority responsible for land and mining surveying in New South Wales.

The original duties for the Surveyor General was to measure and determine land grants for settlers in New South Wales.

The Surveyor General is the leader and regulator of the land and mining surveying profession and plays a key advocacy role in the spatial industry in NSW

  • Responsibilities under the Surveying & Spatial Information Act & its Regulation
  • Surveyor General's Directions
  • President of the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI)
  • Chair of the Geographical Names Board (GNB)
  • NSW representative on the Intergovernmental Committee for Surveying & Mapping (ICSM)
  • Electoral Boundaries Commissioner (State & Federal)
  • Sets the quality, education and competency standards for registered land and mining surveyors
  • Responsible for protecting the public and the integrity of the state cadastre by suspension or removal of registered surveyors in relation to misconduct or incompetence
  • Responsible for the DFSI Spatial Services Survey Operations team (Geodesy, State control survey, CORSnet-NSW, SCIMS)

List of Surveyors General of New South WalesEdit

Surveyor General Period in office Comments Notes
Augustus Alt 1787– 1803 Alt's job was mainly undertaken by then Deputy, Charles Grimes [1]
Charles Grimes 1803 – 1811 George William Evans acted August 1803 – February 1805
John Oxley 1812 – 1828
Sir Thomas Mitchell 1828 - 1855 Samuel Augustus Perry, deputy from 1829. [2]
George Barney 1855 – 1859
Alexander McLean 1861 – 1862 Acting Surveyor General 1859-1861
Walker Davidson 1864 – 1868 Acting Surveyor General 1861-1863
Philip Adams 1868 - 1887 Assisted the NSW Government Astronomer in observing a transit of Venus
Edward Twynam 1890 – 1901 Acting Surveyor General 1888-1890
Position abolished 1890 – 1911 Office of Surveyor-General abolished in 1890, replaced by Chief Surveyor and Superintendent of Trigonometrical Survey.
Joseph Allworth 1901 – 1904
Edward MacFarlane 1904 – 1908
Robert McDonald 1908 – 1911
Frederick Poate 1911 – 1916 Surveyor-General title revived 1911
John Broughton 1916 – 1922
Alfred Chesterman 1922 – 1925
Henry Hall 1925 – 1926
Hamilton Mathews 1926 – 1937
Arthur Allen 1937 – 1945
Harold Barrie 1945 – 1946
Daniel Mulley 1946 – 1953
George Vincent 1953 – 1960
Charles Elphinstone 1960 – 1963
Henry Barr 1963 – 1965
Leo Fletcher 1965 – 1978
Jack Darby 1979 – 1985
Don Grant AO, RFD 1986 – 2000 Grant was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in January 2020 for "distinguished service to surveying, particularly through the establishment of a combined public sector mapping agency"[3] He was previously appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 1994 in recognition of service to surveying. [4][5] Grant has also been awarded three honorary doctorate degrees from Australian universities. In 1997, Charles Sturt University conferred on Grant the degree of Doctor of Applied Science (honoris causa) for his contribution to Australian and international surveying, mapping and spatial information. [6] Also in 1997, the University of New South Wales awarded Grant the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa). [7] In 2004, the University of Melbourne awarded Grant the degree of Doctor of Surveying (honoris causa) for his contributions to surveying. [8]
Warwick Watkins 2000 – 2011 Watkins was sacked from the NSW Public Service after the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found in December 2011 that Watkins acted corruptly. [9] His sacking came after he had been stood down in March 2011 from his Chief Executive position in the NSW Public Service. The week prior to being sacked from the NSW Public Service, Watkins resigned his appointments as Surveyor-General, Registrar-General and Commissioner of the Soil Conservation Service. Had Watkins not resigned as Surveyor-General prior to being dismissed from the NSW Public Service, he would have become the first ever Surveyor-General sacked. [10]Following ICAC's findings, Watkins faced criminal charges in the NSW Local Court where it was reported he could have received 10 years imprisonment. Two of the charges were dismissed by the Court and in December 2013, Watkins was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond for the further two charges of misleading ICAC, to which he had pleaded guilty.[11][12][13]On 23 October 2014, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors expelled Watkins from the Institution and he automatically lost his Fellowship.[14] The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 29 February 2016, issued notice that the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, had terminated Watkins appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia.[15] In November 2019, Watkins’ Honorary Fellowship of the Institution of Surveyors NSW was suspended for six months. [16] Watkins' death was reported as 12 November 2019.[17][18]
Desmond Mooney 2011-16
Narelle Underwood 2016–Present Underwood was the youngest person in 200 years and the first female to be appointed to the position of Surveyor-General. In 2018 Underwood was listed in the inaugural NSW Top 50 Public Sector Women and was awarded the 2017 UNSW Maria Skyllas-Kazacos Young Professional Award for Outstanding Achievement.[19] Underwood graduated from UNSW in 2009 with a BE Hons 1 Surveying & Spatial Information Systems and the University Medal. Underwood was appointed for "her wealth of experience", advised in the NSW government departmental media release.[20] Underwood’s "wealth of experience" for appointment is evidenced by graduation in 2009 and registration in late 2010. That is around 5 years experience only, as a Registered Surveyor, making her one of the least qualified Surveyors-General. Predecessor, Warwick Watkins was not qualified.[21][22] Underwood was recognised at the 2019 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, when she was named as co-winner of the ANZSOG-sponsored Emerging Female Leader in Government or Public Sector. Underwood was named as joint winner with Macquarie University academic Amy Thunig who won for her work in revolutionising settler-colonial approaches to education and building bridges between academia and the broader public.[23]

In her relatively short career to date, Underwood has won a total of nine industry awards for her innovation and commitment to quality outputs, including the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards Young Professional of the Year in 2011, which she won from amidst a highly capable international field. In 2014 the team which Underwood managed won a NSW Excellence in Surveying and Spatial Information Award for the technical innovation and efficiency they displayed during stage 1 of the WestConnex development project. Under Underwood’s management, six teams covering vast geographical areas used the latest mobile laser scanning technology, cutting surveying time by up to 70%. Because of the densely populated urban environment, other technologies such as traditional detail surveying and Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) were also used to enhance the accuracy of MLS-derived data and filling in any apparent gaps. Underwood is working with two professional bodies (ISNSW and SMIC – of which she is chair) on the NSW Surveying Task Force to encourage more graduates to consider a career in surveying – without whom the construction industry could very well grind to a halt.[24] As Surveyor General, Underwood is the President of the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI), Chair of the Geographical Names Board (GNB), NSW Surveying Taskforce and the Surveying and Mapping Industry Council (SMIC). Underwood is the NSW representative on the Australian and New Zealand Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying & Mapping (ICSM) and the Geocentric Datum of Australia Modernisation Implementation Working Group (GMIWG).[25]


  1. ^ Dowd, Bernard T. (1966). "Augustus Theodore Henry Alt". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 June 2012 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. ^ "Samuel Augustus Perry". Design & Art Online Australia. Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Search Australian Honours: GRANT, Donald Morrison". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 10 June 1994. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Award of honorary degree of Doctor of Surveying: Dr Donald Morrison Grant" (PDF). Citation. University of Melbourne. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
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  12. ^ Nicholls, Sean (29 May 2013). "Watkins faces possible 10 years jail over $12m property deal". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Charges dismissed against Warwick Watkins over NSW Labor land deal". The Australian. AAP. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Mr Warwick Watkins FRICS". Regulation: Disciplinary procedure: Panel hearings: Disciplinary panel hearings. United Kingdom: Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
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