The first head of the Government Survey Department was the Surveyor-General. Mr. Felton Mathew, appointed in 1841 (Govt. Gazette. 7/7/1841).
It is interesting to recall the impressions of Mr. Felton Mathew, Surveyor-General, as to the suitability of the land about Port Nicholson as the site for a town. His account was written a year after the landing of the first settlers. In a report to the Governor, Mr. Mathew says:—
“The town is advantageously situated around the shores of that indentation of the port which is distinguished by the name of Lambton Harbour, and presents a very eligible site for a town of moderate extent. There is a very beautiful flat, known as Thorndon Flat, having an area of about 50 acres, forming the northern portion of the town; and at the head of the bay there is an extent of about 300 or 400 acres of level and undulating land, highly favourable for the purpose for which it is intended.
“On that part of the shore which intervenes between these two flats, the spurs from the mountain ranges close in upon the harbour, leaving a space barely sufficient for the erection of houses; and for a carriage way between the base of the hills and the water's edge. The water, however, in this part of the harbour is very shallow, and at a comparatively trifling expense a considerable extent of land may be recovered, which at a future time will become highly valuable as a site for a Custom House and other public buildings and for commercial buildings.
By courtesy Lands and Survey Dept.] Surveyors-General of New Zealand.
“Immediately behind the two flats already spoken of the land rises suddenly into bold and rugged hills of very considerable elevation, thickly covered with timber and brushwood, and intersected by deep ravines, of so steep, broken, and impracticable a nature as to render the back country exceedingly difficult of access.
“On the whole, the site of the town is certainly admirably adapted to the purpose, and would afford ample space for one of considerable extent, and for the accommodation of a very numerous population, had the character of the ground and the local advantages been properly estimated and judiciously taken advantage of.”
The writer expresses his opinion as to the size of the allotments and offers criticism page 479 on the laying out of the town by the New Zealand Company. He says that the land generally (with the exception of the valley of the Hutt) is of a very inferior description, and would not, in his opinion, pay for cultivation, especially considering the expense of clearing.
Mr. Felton Mathew describes the partial formation of the road from Wellington to Petone. About 50 men were now engaged in making the road. He writes:—
“I have thus endeavoured to convey, for His Excellency's information, an idea of the impressions which I have derived from a very careful examination of Port Nicholson and its immediate neighbourhood, to the utmost extent which my means and opportunities would allow. A more beautiful and romantic spot it would be difficult to conceive; a finer harbour could not be desired; but it is vain to deny that the great difficulty of opening a means of communication with the interior presents a very serious objection, and that from the limited extent of land available for agriculture in its neighbourhood it is not calculated to support a very numerous population.” (Evening “Post,” 21/1/1926).
Mr. Charles Waybrow Ligar assumed control as Surveyor-General on the 28th Dec., 1841, until the control of surveying developed chiefly on the chief surveyors of the several provinces.
Under-Secretaries for Crown Lands. By courtesy of the Lands and Survey Department, Wellington]
In 1874, a conference of chief surveyors was held in Wellington and was presided over by Mr. Theophilus Heale. And in 1876, Mr. J. T. Thomson was appointed Surveyor-General, and deputed to organise a Survey Department for the Colony. An official list of Surveyors-General appears in Mr. W. R. Jourdain's Land Legislation and Settlement in N.Z., p. 237, from which the above remarks about Messrs. Mathew and Ligar are extracted. The list is as follows:—
Felton Mathew (3/5/1841), Chas. Waybrow Ligar (28/12/1841, to about 1857), Theophilus Heale inspector. (1867 to 1875), J. T. Thomson (1/5/1876), J. MacKerrow, F.R.A.S. (1/11/1879), S. P. Smith, F.R.G.S. (28/1/1889). A. Barron (acting, 1/11/1900). J. W. A. Marchant (1/1/1902), T. Humphries, F.R.A.S. (1/7/1906), J. Strauchon (1/7/1909), J. Mackenzie, F.R.G.S. (1/4/1912), E. H. Wilmot (1/4/1914). J. N. Brodrick, O.B.E., I.S.O. (7/4/1920), W. T. Neill (25/10/20 to 1928), J. B. Thompson, C.B.E. (1929), H. E., Walshe, A.P. (1929 to date).
The first secretary for Crown Lands was the Hon. Alfred Domett (13/1/1864-26/10/1871): page 480 Wm. Sefton Moorhouse (26/10/1871-10/9/1872), followed by J. McKerrow, S. P. Smith and J. W. A. Marchant.
Charles Edward Haughton was first Under Secretary for Crown Lands (29/10/1872). Others were:—Dr. Joseph Giles (15/2/1877), H. J. H. Elliott (1/2/1878), A. Baron (16/4/1891), William Charles Kensington, I.S.O. (1/1/1902-1/7/1906), J. Strauchon, I.S.O. 1/4/1912), J. Mackenzie, I.S.O., F.R.G.S. (1/4/1914), T. N. Brodrick, O.B.E., I.S.O. (1/10/1915), John Baird Thompson, M.N.Z., Soc. C.E., C.B.E. (19/6/1929 to date).
Besides the prominent men mentioned above acting in the capacity of land administrators, some eminent men closely identified with early Wellington have served with distinction, namely:—Captain (afterwards Major) Charles Heaphy, the first New Zealander to win the Victoria Cross; Mr. Francis Dillon (afterwards the Hon. Sir F. D. Bell, K.C.M.G., and father of the Right Hon. F. H. Dillon Bell); Mr. Wm. Fox (afterwards Hon. Sir Wm. Fox, K.C.M.G.); Mr. Wm. Fitzherbert (afterwards the Hon. Sir Wm. Fitzherbert, K.C.M.G.), and Mr. J. G. Holdsworth, deputy commissioner. (Jourdain's Land Legislation, p. 204).
The History of the Department, articles showing the typical experiences in a surveyor's life, pioneer surveying and explorations, the fighting record and biographical sketches of the early surveyors, will be found on pp. 200-231 Jourdain's Land Legislation.
Very little is known by the general public of the personality of a Government official, because the State's servants do not live under the limelight, and it is not until some unusually important *cident happens in the official's life *he comes under the public eye.
One of the important incidents of a surveyor's life is his return to his home and civilisation after a long period spent in the lonely bush, or on the wind-swept hills.
On his arrival at the survey office to complete his plan work he is greeted with demonstrations of welcome, which are hardly concluded when the time-worn question is asked him: “When do you go out again?”
Mr. Samuel Brees, the second Surveyor-General to the New Zealand Company, gives an account of a surveyors' encampment, Porirua Bush, in his “Pictorial N.Z.,” from which a few extracts are given:—
The above reads like a picnic party when compared to Thomas Brunner's inspiring record of endurance while surveying on the West Coast in 1846. On the 3rd December, 1846, he left Nelson with a party of four natives—two men and two women—on what became the most arduous tour of exploration in the history of New Zealand. Mr. Brunner's object was to explore the Buller river, downwards to the coast, to seek an opening to the eastward from the lake country and a pass through to Port Cooper. The explorer was away in the wilds for 80 weeks, and underwent almost unbelievable privations. The food supply the small party could carry on their backs in such country was soon exhausted, and thenceforth the travellers lived on what they could find in the bush and the rivers. Mr. Brunner's diary was published in the “Examiner” of 1848, and extracts from it appearing in the Nelson “Evening Mail,” Saturday, Dec. 11, 1926, give some indication of the magnitude of the undertaking. The provisions taken were: 101b. flour, a few biscuits, and a little tea, sugar, salt and pepper. The bulk of the outfit was spare clothing to replace that worn by the party at starting, two guns and a supply of ammunition. On the 1st of March the last handful of flour was consumed to thicken soup. Some of the party, including Mr. Brunner, became ill. The illness was attributed to their fern-root diet.
The scarcity of food was so great that, after killing and eating his dog, Mr. Brunner was, on one occasion, without food for nearly three days. They reached a pa, where they expected to find some natives, and found it deserted, and no provisions could be found. Instead of a good meal of potatoes, as they fondly anticipated, they were compelled to regale themselves on seaweed. The natives returned after a couple of days, and the party stayed with them for a brief period before walking about a hundred miles further down the coast. They reached the Howard river on the 9th June, and built a shelter. Next day they experienced rain, snow and a fresh in the river. They searched the country all round for food, but found none, and the river was too deep to wade. On the 15th June they came to the old survey house on the “Mokopiko,” which they found had fallen. Ekehu and his wife wished to stay there, and complained of sore feet, and Epiki and his wife were behind, but Brunner was anxious to push on, and when he mentioned tea and bread the woman agreed to follow him to Fraser's, which was reached at ten o'clock at night. Fraser gave them a hearty welcome and a smoke of good tobacco. “So I thanked God,” wrote Brunner in his diary, “that I had once more reached the abode of page 483 civilised man, of which I had many fears during my illness, the thought of which preyed on my mind. It is a period of nearly 500 days from the time I wished Fraser good-bye on the banks of the Rotuiti river and my seeing him at his house this evening. I have never, during this time, heard a word of English save a broken gibberish of Ekehu and the echo of my own voice, and I rather feel astonished to find I could both understand and speak English as well as ever, for, during many wet days. I had never spoken a word of my own language, nor conversed, even in Maori, of which I was well tired.”
It has not been on the battlefield alone that officers of the Survey Department have displayed qualities of heroism and devotion to duty. When it is borne in mind that New Zealand had to be surveyed before settlement could take place in any real sense, and that the dangers of pioneering work were continuous and unavoidable, it must be admitted that those men who blazed the trail were deserving of the utmost credit that can now be given to them. Mountain torrents, flooded rivers, bad weather, unknown country, hostile natives, snow clad ranges, difficulty in obtaining food, lack of medical attendance, dense forests and dangerous swamps faced the surveyors of by-gone days. Many a man has died in his camp, away from civilisation, an uncomplaining martyr to duty.… . During one reconnoitring expedition in 1857, Mr. Percy Smith had a close call, a bullet striking close beside him as he was surveying an enemy position during a fusilade at the time of the Maori troubles. The Patea surveys of 1866-67 were a service of great danger, cutting up lands for military settlers, confiscated from the natives, who were in great force, and bitterly opposed the white man. The survey camps were always pitched close to the redoubts for safety, and no man ever went a few hundred yards from camp without being fully armed (Jourdain's Land Legislation, pp. 217-219).
Charts and Maps. In the “Story of New Zealand,” book 2, published by Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd., there are reproductions of Abel Tasman's map of New Zealand coast, 1642, with actual coast line for comparison; and Cook's chart of New Zealand, showing the result of Lieutenant Cook's observations during the voyage of the “Endeavour” (scale 20 leagues to a degree), and published 1st January, 1772.
Charts and portions of charts of Tasman, Cook, Barnett, 1826; Captain Herd, 1826; D'Urville. 1827; McDonnell, 1834; New Zealand Association, 1837; Polack, 1838, and Chaffers, 1840, are reproduced in Mr. Elsdon Best's “Discovery of Wellington Harbour,” published by the Harbour Board.
Barnett's chart of 1826 has a footnote at the bottom of the plan, thus:—
“Port Nicholson (Wangenueatera), N.Z., surveyed and drawn by T. Barnett, 1826. To J. Nicholson Esq., this chart is respectfully presented by his most obedient servant, T. Barnett. Sydney, March 12, 1827.”
Some early maps of New Zealand are mentioned in a catalogue of atlases, maps, sea charts, etc., published by Francis Edwards, 83A High Street, Marylebone, London, W.I.
A schedule of maps is given as under (with name of publisher in parentheses):—
- 1837.—Engravings of N.Z., by A. Earle (publishers, N.Z. Association).page 484
- 1840.—View of the Harbour, by Heaphy (Moon). J. Thomson's Map (Smith Elder and Co.) Chaffers' Survey of Port Nicholson (Jas. Wyld).
- 1841.—N.Z. Company's Territories, etc. (J. Arrowsmith). Part Town Wellington, Lambton Harbour, with a key, (extremely correct), by C. Heaphy (Smith Elder and Co. (The “N.Z. Journal” Journal,” October 2, 1841, shows a list of early maps published.)
- 1843.—New Zealand, size 24 x 19, 15/-(J. Arrowsmith). Brees' Map of Wellington (H.O., Govt. Bldgs, Plan W.1.).
- 1844.—Wellington Reserves (S. Brees, N.Z. Co.)
- 1848.—Wellington Native Reserves (N.Z. Co.) Thorndon Quay, Government Printing Office, Hotel Cecil Site (C. Toxwood).
- 1861.—Thorndon to Clay Point (A. W. Carkeek).
- 1867.—Sections 51-168 Reclaimed Land (Briscoe).
- 1869.—North Island Confiscated Lands (Mills, Dick and Lester).
- 1872.—Sub-divisions of Town Belt Res., etc. (R. Burrett).
- 1880.—Town and Suburbs—Island Bay, Melrose, Vogeltown, Upland Farm, etc. (J. N. Coleridge; lithos. by Burrett).
- 1888.—City and District, showing tram routes (F. H. Tronson).
- 1915.—Wellington Country Districts, compiled and drawn by H. J. W. Mason, with additional information—native old pas, villages, occupations, etc.—by Messrs. Elsdon Best and H. McLeod; by direction Surveyor-General E. H. Wilmot (Marcus Marks, Govt. printer), (See page 486).
- 1926.—City of Wellington, drawn by A. L. Haylock 1915, revised by R. J. Crawford, 1925, and supervised by H. E. Walshe, chief draughtsman, 1926: by direction of the Surveyor-General, W. T. Neill (W. A. G. Skinner. Govt. printer).
Later maps of Wellington are published by the Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington, N.Z.
Fig. 304.—Mr. J. B. Thompson, C.B.E. Was Assistant-Surveyor 1891, Chief Drainage Engineer 1912. Under-Secretary for Lands 1922 to date (1929), Controller of Land Purchase 1927, Chairman of Surveyors, Town Planning and other Boards, and Surveyor-General, January to March, 1929.
Fig. 307.—Foundation Members of the N.Z. Geographic Advisory Board, founded in 1924. The names are (sitting): Mr. W. T. Neill, late Surveyor-General of N.Z. and representative for N.Z. of the Royal Geographical Society, London; The Venerable Archdeacon Herbert Williams (Gisborne); and Mr. Elsdon Best, F.N.Z.I., ethnologist; (Standing): Mr. Louis E. Ward, clerk-draughtsman. Lands and Survey Department (Hon. Sec.); Sir Frederick Chapman (Knight Bachelor); Mr. Johannes C. Andersen, F.N.Z.I. (Alexander Turnbull Library); and Mr. Maurice Crompton-Smith (Secretary to the Surveyors' Board).
* For indentification of localities this map should be compared with the Survey Department's County Map.