History of Land Surveying In Fiji

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					               “History of Land Surveying in Fiji”. – B. Dutt and M.
               Volavola, Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources,
               Suva. 19 October 1977.

                     IN FIJI

                           B. Dutt & M.Volavola

                  Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources
                              October 19, 1977

TA.530.F5 D8 USP Library

Chapter   Contents                                               Page

          Introduction                                             3

 I        Land Surveying prior to 1874                             4

 II       Investigation and survey of freehold land claims         9

III       Investigation and survey of Native lands 1880 – 1905     22

 IV       Prescription of method and accuracy of surveys           26

 V        Trigonometrical Survey                                   28

 VI       Survey of Native Lands 1905 – 1939                       32

VII       Introduction of aerial photographs and other modern

          techniques in Surveying.                                 34

VIII      Metrication in Surveying                                 38

 IX       Role of Surveyors                                        40

 X        Training of Surveyors                                    42

 XI       Professional Society of Surveyors                        44

                 Conclusion                                        45

This paper on the history of land surveying in Fiji has been especially prepared to commemorate

the hundredth year of the enactment of legislation to control the survey profession after the Deed

of Cession. The paper is published on the historic occasion of the first Pacific region meeting in

Fiji of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy, to be held in Suva

from 1st to 5th November, 1977.

We wish to acknowledge that for the period up to 1962 the main content of this paper has been

compiled from the paper entitled "A Brief Historical Review of Land Boundaries in Fiji"

delivered to the Fiji Society on July 9, 1962 by Mr. D.T. Lloyd, O.B.E., in his capacity as its

President. Mr. Lloyd served as the Director of Lands, Mines and Surveys, Fiji, for more than

twelve years. Information for the period 1962 onwards has been derived from the annual reports

of the Lands and Survey Department.

We are extremely grateful to Mr. T.K. Verma, the Permanent Secretary for Lands and Mineral

Resources for much useful information and guidance in completing this paper.

Finally, time and other commitments did not allow us to carry out more research to prepare this


                                                                         B. Duff and M. Volavola

                             Lands & Survey Division Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources
                                                                                        Suva, FIJI.

                                                                               19th October, 1977
                                           Chapter I

                                    Land Surveying Prior To 1874

The history of Surveying- in Fiji can be said to go as far back as February 6th, 1643, when

Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer sighted a low island near the Nanuku Passage. Tasman found

himself in a maze of coral which he was lucky enough to avoid. During this time Tasman,

probably made the first ever position fix of the Fiji Group in relation to the "known world".

Neither Tasman nor the Dutch were impressed by Tasman's discoveries, but the mariners

made it a point to avoid the inhospitable reefs of Fiji fixed by Tasman.

Other explorers who followed include the famous Captain James Cook in 1774. Captain

William Bligh in 1789; who later published a chart of the islands in London; Captain James

Wilson in 1797 who confirmed the discoveries of Tasman and Bligh, and Fabian von

Bellingshavsen, leader of a Russian expedition in 1820.

            The first Europeans to land and live among the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors

and run away convicts from Australian penal settlements. Next came the Sandal-wood

traders, the beche-de-mer seekers and the missionaries. By 1830 permanent traders had

established themselves in Levuka, Bau and the Rewa area.

Throughout their history, the Fijian land-owning units had a very clear idea of the location of

their boundaries, however no evidence has been found to show that the owners ever bothered

about the acreage of the land they owned nor to record their boundaries in any way before the

coming of the European settlers. Every land-owning unit "knew" that its land extended from

a certain ridge down to the sea coast and that its land lay between two streams. This

important information was passed down generations and these boundaries remained unaltered

except through conquest.

When European settlers first took up land from the natives they introduced a complication

into this very simple state of affairs. The Europeans came mainly from the new colonies in
North America, Australia and New Zealand where even by the 1840’s it was customary for

settlers to secure their interest in land by marking and recording the boundaries. When the

early settlers took up land in Fiji they wanted the same security.

The boundaries of holdings of the early settlers followed natural features such as trees, hills,

ridges and streams or were straight lines running back from coast to hills. Distances between

boundary marks were either guessed or measured by paces and expressed in fathoms, chains

or miles while changes of direction in boundaries were described in terms of cardinal points

of the compass. As the settlers and the native owners agreed to the boundaries on the ground

and since little importance was attached to the precise acreage which any parcel contained,

and as the transaction was frequently not reduced to writing, this method was quite suitable

and in any case was the best available. However, with the passage of time and as boundary

disputes between native owners and settlers became more frequent, the settlers themselves

sought to increase their security by obtaining written agreements with the native owners and

by obtaining more accurate record plans of their boundaries. At first settlers drew their own

rough plans. Later they employed surveyors to do this work for them.

As most of the early settlers came to Fiji from the young colony of New South Wales it is not

unnatural to find that professional land surveyors also came from those colonies and brought

with them the survey methods and techniques then being used and evolved in the new

Australian colonies. During the 1840’s and 1850's more and more use was made of

instruments for the measurements of distances and angles of direction. Prismatic compasses,

ships' sextants and later theodolites came into use for measuring angles and ropes, chains and

metal tapes were used for measuring distances. Angular measurements were in degrees and

minutes and linear measurements were recorded in fathoms or in chains and links. (The

recognized Fijian unit of "fathom" being the distance between the tips of the fingers of a

man's outstretched arms was frequently used.)

Nevertheless in spite of these aids it was found later that much of the survey work carried out
up to 1870's was very "rough", the oldest plan in existence in the Lands Department is dated

1st December, 1870 and is the survey of a lot in Levuka. In a footnote on this plan the

surveyor recorded that in trying to relate the boundaries of the lot to the plans of adjoining

lots he found an error of 132½ft. There are no records to show how this discrepancy was

resolved. But as long as each settler remained in occupation of his land and as long as each

settler took land which did not adjoin that of another settler, these rough surveys were of no

great significance. Boundary disputes which did occur concerned only the settler and the

native owner and could be settled reasonably easily and quickly on the spot. However, as the

number of settlers increased they began to take up adjoining holdings and, what was more

important, they began to sell or deal in their holdings-amongst themselves. This resulted in a

big increase both in disputes between settlers and native owners and not unnaturally gave rise

to a demand for more accurate definition and more accurate survey plans.

By 1873 the Ministry of Lands, Works, Naval and Military Affairs in the third of the

Cakobau and Ad-Interim Governments which prevailed from 1871 to 1874 had introduced a

law prescribing that only land surveyors who possessed Government licenses could practice

the profession. This followed the Australian and New Zealand practice. Licenses were

granted by a Chief Surveyor and every applicant for a Licence was required to produce

satisfactory evidence of his qualification (and this involved producing field books and plans)

or to pass an examination set for him by the Chief Surveyor. The Licence Fee was $2.50.

The Gazette No.65 of March 15th 1873 published the names of 5 persons who held licenses

to practice as land surveyors.

The Cakobau Government probably introduced such advance legislation for two reasons.

Firstly, it was in accordance with the practice in operation at the time in Australian colonies

and New Zealand. Secondly because the Government relied on land tax for a big proportion

of its revenue and it was therefore important that it should know reasonably accurately how

much land each settler possessed.
There is no record that the Cakobau Government prescribed any method by which surveys of

boundaries were to be carried out, nor the degree of accuracy to which the work was to be

done, nor the charges which a surveyor could ask for his services. Each licensed surveyor

was assumed to be sufficiently qualified and to possess a sufficiently high sense of

responsibility to carry out his work to the best of his ability and in accordance with the best

traditions of his very ancient profession.

It is interesting to note at this point that this is what still applies in a number of territories,

though Governments in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and a few other colonies and dominions

and ex-colonies and dominions, have laid down in the law of the country precisely what

methods land surveyors shall use, the degree of accuracy to which the survey work shall be

done and the maximum fee which surveyors shall charge for their services. Many surveyors

throughout the world consider this to be an undesirable interference with the conduct of the

profession and claim that in no other profession have such steps been found necessary. How-

ever this is a wide issue which goes far beyond the purpose of this paper.

In addition to permitting every licensed surveyor to practice his profession in the manner he

thought fit, the Cakobau Government also permitted each property to be surveyed in isolation

and made no stipulation that the survey of the boundaries of any one property should be

related in any way to those of adjoining or neighbouring properties. Nor is there any

evidence that the then Ministry of Lands deemed it necessary to chart all the surveys of the

isolated holdings on plans. This was an omission which was to cause trouble in later years.

Because of the increasing number of land disputes amongst the settlers themselves and

between settlers and natives in late 1860's the British Government advised the British Consul

at Levuka to inform all British settlers in Fiji that the consul could not assist in the settlement

of any land disputes unless copies of the agreements were lodged at the Consul's Office.

Later the British Consul was instructed that no agreements between settlers and natives in
relation to land could be recognised by the British Government unless copies of them had

been lodged at the Consul's office. These instructions represent the earliest reference to what

amounted to a Title Deeds register in Fiji and they represent the forerunner of the Land

Transfer Act. In later years these copies of deeds and agreements proved most useful to the

Lands Commission set up immediately after Cession. This was the position up to 1874.
                                             Chapter II

                        Investigation and Survey of Freehold Land Claims

The next development in the history of surveying begins with the signing of the Deed of Cession

of 1874 by which Fiji became a British Crown territory. This historic document had such a

marked effect on the surveying of land in Fiji that it is advisable to quote the two clauses of the

Deed which were of particular significance to the survey profession. The first of these is Clause

4 which decreed:

      “That the absolute proprietorship of all lands not shown to be now alienated so as to

      have become the bona fide property of Europeans or other foreigners or not now in

      the actual use or occupation of some Chief or tribe or not actually required for the

      probable future support and maintenance of some chief or tribe shall be and is

      hereby declared to be vested in Her said Majesty her heirs and successors."

It will be seen that this clause clearly established what amounted to 4 different categories of

land. First was the land which could be proved to have become the bona fide property of

Europeans and other foreigners. Secondly, the lands which were in the actual use or occupation

of some chief or tribe at the date of signing of the Deed. Thirdly, the lands required for the

probable future support and maintenance of some chief or tribe. Fourthly, all lands not

contained in these three previous categories and which were therefore the property of the Crown.

However, Clause 7 of the Deed qualified what might otherwise have been a clear interpretation

of Clause 4. The relevant sections of this Clause read: -

      "That on behalf of Her Majesty His Excellency Sir H.G.R. Robinson promises (i) that

      the rights of the said Tui Viti and other high chiefs the ceding parties hereto shall be

      recognised so far as is and shall be consistent with British Sovereignty and Colonial

      Government .....(3) that all claims to land by whomsoever preferred ... shall in due

      course be fully investigated and equitably adjusted."

Regardless of the precise intent of these particular sections of Clause 7 it appears that in order to
implement Clause 4 the new Provisional Government was faced with the problem of devising

the machinery necessary to define the lands which fell into each of the four categories. As

mentioned earlier, there were no general maps of the territory available nor were there any

written records or plans to show which Fijians owned what land. The only available records

appear to have been those relating to lands owned or occupied by non-native settlers.

The Provisional Government decreed that enactments of the Cakobau Governments of 1871 -

1874 should remain in operation until suspended. This meant that as under the Cakobau

Governments so under the Provisional Government only persons holding licenses could practice

as land surveyors. During the period 1874 -1875 the duties of administering the Government's

land and survey policy were discharged by the Chief Secretary with the assistance of one of the

licensed surveyors who had practised privately in pre-Cession days.

One of the first steps taken by the Provisional Government was to start preliminary enquiries

into the claims to land by non-natives, i.e. the first of the four categories mentioned in Clause 4

of the Deed of Cession. To this end in July 1875 notices were published in the Fiji Gazette, the

"Fiji Times", the "Sydney Morning Herald", the "Adelaide Observer" and "Melbourne Argus",

requesting all Europeans and non-natives who wished their claims to land in Fiji to be confirmed

by a Crown Grant from the new Colonial Government to submit full particulars to the

Government of Fiji. Claimants resident in Fiji were required to submit their particulars by

October, 31st, 1875 and those living in Australia and New Zealand by December 31, 1875.

Similar notices were published in the "New Zealand Herald", the "New York Herald", the "Alta"

of California and "The Times" of London on the September 28, 1875 and claimants in the

United Kingdom and America were required to submit their particulars on or before March 31,


A survey office headed by a Surveyor-General was established in 1875 and on October 9 of that

year the first Surveyor-General was appointed. He and his six immediate successors were
regular officers of the Royal Engineers who were seconded to the service of Fiji. One of the

Surveyor-General's duties was to issue licenses to survey land. In February 1875 the

Department of Lands and Immigration was set up and the first Commissioner of Lands and

Agent-General of Immigration was appointed on September 1, 1875.

On September 1, 1875 the Governor with the advice of the first Legislative Council enacted

Ordinance No. III of 1875 whereby Her Majesty the Queen directed that all claims to land

arising from contracts entered into before the Proclamation of the territory as a Crown Colony

would be fully investigated by a Commission appointed by the Governor. This Ordinance went

on to decree that in order to prevent litigation in the ordinary Courts of the Colony relating to

such claims it would be unlawful, except in certain special circumstances, to start or maintain

any action whatsoever which involve an existing claim. On September 16, 1875 the Legislative

Council enacted Ordinance No. VI of 1875, which prohibited all land transactions between

natives and non-natives.

The first Ordinance relating to the appointment and registration of Land Surveyors was enacted

on February 23, 1877, as Ordinance No. VI of 1877. This Ordinance laid down that a Licence

or Commission to carry out survey of land would be issued by the Governor on payment of a fee

of 2 guineas to those who in the opinion of the Surveyor-General were suitably qualified. No

surveys of land carried out by persons other than licensed surveyors would be recognised by any

Court or the Registrar of Titles. Every Licensed Surveyor would prepare his plans to the

satisfaction of the Surveyor-General and draw them in duplicate, depositing one with the

Surveyor-General, whose duty it was to use them in order to lay down upon general maps of the

various islands the position and boundaries of the land surveyed. The Surveyor-General was

authorised to make Regulations governing the method of survey to be adopted and, subject to

the approval of the Governor, to fix fees which could be charged by Surveyors. This Ordinance,

which was based on a similar Ordinance current in Victoria at the time, in substance remained
unchanged till 1st January, 1970, when the present Surveyors Act, 1969 came into force.

The Surveyor-General first issued a notice prescribing fees to be charged for survey of

boundaries in May 1877 and 14 similar notices have been issued from time to time since then,

the latest being in 1958. In 1877 also, the Surveyor-General issued brief instructions to all

surveyors. Unfortunately a copy of these cannot be traced.

It is interesting to note at this point that the Lands Commission set up in September 1875

consisted of the Commissioner of Lands, the Surveyor-General, and Mr. Emberson, who was

then the Registrar of Titles. Some months later the Chief Justice became a member. The public

was informed that no claims would be entertained from mortgagees other than mortgagees in

possession: that legal counsel would not be heard before the Commission (AS the Commissioner

of Lands at the time put it to one claimant in a letter dated December 25, 1875, "The

Commission was to get through matters as speedily as possible and avoid unnecessary delays"):

the Vunivalu himself would most likely appear before the Commission when claimants could

put questions to him bearing on their claims with the permission of the Commission and through

its Chairman. The claimants were also informed that the Governor had no objection to the lands

they claimed being surveyed although claims would be considered by the Commission without

prior survey. Any boundary surveys carried out by persons not licensed by Government would

have to be referred to the Surveyor-General for ratification at the expense of the claimant.

            It will be seen from the immediately preceding paragraphs that the new Colonial

Government very smartly and firmly grasped the very thorny problem of administration of land.

It stopped land dealings between natives and non-natives, it called for particulars from those

non-natives who claimed ownership of land, and it prohibited persons other than those suitably

qualified to carry out surveys of land. But having grasped the thorny twig so firmly the young

Government was then faced with the problem of what next to do with it.

On the 13th March, 1876 the Commissioner of Lands reported to the Government that a large

number of claims from non-natives had been received and a considerable proportion had been
dealt with by the Commission. Where claimants had been able to submit reasonable sketch

plans the Commission adjudicated claims on the strength of these. Where no such evidence was

available the Surveyor-General prepared a description in words from information supplied by

claimants and these descriptions were sent out to surveyors in the field who were required to

make quick sketches for the benefit of the Commission. In preparing these sketches surveyors

were instructed to make it clear to the native owners that the sketches were being prepared for

the information of Government and did not mean that the lands surveyed would be sold without

their knowledge. Surveyors were also required to note any evidence of occupation both by the

claimants and by natives of the lands described.

All sketch plans were considered by the Commission which forwarded its recommendation to

the Governor-in-Council. Claims which were approved in toto or in part were then sent to the

Surveyor-General for final survey so that a Crown Grant could issue. Surveyors dealt with as

many claims as possible in one locality before moving on to another. Boundary marks of

wooden -pegs and blazed trees were put in, angles were measured by theodolite and distance by

tape or by intersection and trigonometrical computation.

As will be imagined, the demand for surveyors was great. The terms of service were not very

attractive. A surveyor's salary was £200 per annum. Surveyors from overseas had to pay their

own passage to Fiji though this was refunded after 12 months satisfactory service. There was a

great difficulty in recruiting labour in the districts (a labourer was paid only 3 or 4 shillings a

week plus his rations). All labourers employed by these early surveyors are described as being

Polynesians taken on in Levuka but the records do not show whether they were Fijians or non-

natives .

Having grasped the problem of investigating claims to land by non-natives so firmly the

Government was then compelled to provide the legal foundation for subsequent dealings in such

claims as were approved and in respect of which Crown Grants were issued. On March 13,

1876 the Commissioner of Lands recommended to Government that "steps be taken at once to
provide for the Registration of Real estate and liens thereon in a manner similar to that in force

in the Australian colonies". He followed, this up in a letter dated 18th September, 1876

recommending that all Grants should be properly surveyed before issue as without proper survey

they are "of little real value to recipients as advances of money cannot be obtained on them nor

can the owners transfer them until they have been surveyed for purchasers will not invest in the

lands until they are surveyed and they are sure of the extent of the land".

Another reason why he thought that proper surveys should be carried out was so as to enable

Government to know reasonably accurately the acreage of land in each Crown Grant which was

issued. This he considered to be important if the Government intended to implement its

proposal to levy a land tax on all freehold land. As the Commissioner of Lands put it in his

official Annual Report for the year 1875/76, "a land tax would soon make persons merely

holding land until it rose in value get rid of it". By Ordinance No. 5 of 1880 a land tax of 2d per

acre per annum was imposed on all land contained in Crown Grants issued before September 30,

1881. In accordance with the Commissioner's advice the new Government enacted Ordinance

No. VII of 1876 known as the "Real Property Ordinance 1876" which came into force on 1st

March, 1877.

This is the principal act which has dictated the subsequent course of the survey profession in

Fiji. The Ordinance was based on the famous Torrens System of land registration which had

been devised by Sir Robert Torrens in South Australia in 1854 and adopted by the Australian

colonies. Since 1854 the System has been adopted by most of the newer countries throughout

the world. The system is based on the concept that every parcel of land must be properly

identified on the ground and accurately surveyed so that the survey plan is a mirror reflection of

land itself. Every plan has to be carefully recorded in a register of plans, and every transaction

involving the land should also be recorded in a land register and referenced to the plan register,

provided they satisfied the requirements of the Surveyor-General. No encumbrance by way of
mortgage lease or easement to land could be substantiated unless it was registered. More

important still the Ordinance provided that the entry in the land register guaranteed the owners'

interest to the freehold rights of the land as shown on the relevant survey plan, the administering

Government being responsible for honouring such guarantees.

It will be seen that the 1876 Real Property Ordinance made it essential to ensure that all lands

registered under the Ordinance were properly surveyed to the satisfaction of the administering

Government and that all survey plans should be properly charted.

Having adopted the System the young Fiji Government was faced with the enormous task of

arranging for all claims by non-natives which had been approved by the 1875 Lands

Commission to be properly surveyed and recorded and Crown Grants issued and moreover that

all new titles emanating from Crown Grants should also be properly surveyed. In a report to the

Governor in 1877 the Surveyor-General recorded that "no surveys of land carried out before

Cession could be relied upon". To avoid delays it was agreed in 1877 that plans of land

surveyed by licensed surveyors in private practice would be acceptable in the preparation of

Crown Grants.

In 1877/78 the establishment of surveyors in the Survey Department was 12; one stationed in

Bua, one in Savusavu, one in Tailevu, one in Suva, one in Rewa and one in Navua, all engaged

on the survey for Crown Grants; one and an assistant engaged on cutting boundary lines in

Taveuni; one in Ra making preliminary sketch plans for the Lands, Commission; one in Levuka

checking previous Crown Grant Surveys and two in Head Office, one preparing data for

surveyors making preliminary sketch plans and one correlating work coming in from field


             By December, 1878 the Lands Commission had dealt with the 1,653 claims received

and in the Annual Report of the Department of Lands and Immigration for 1878 the

Commissioner recorded that only 22 claims covering an area of approximately 75,000 acres in

Bua remained to be considered by the Land Commission. However, the survey of claims that
had been approved lagged far behind for want of surveyors.

Those surveyors available had a most difficult task to perform under most difficult conditions.

Not the least of their worries was the general poor quality of the information they were given as

to the boundaries of the lands they were required to survey. A typical description in support of a

sketch plan issued to a surveyor in September 1882 read as follows: "Commencing at a coconut

tree marked by three cuts on each side situated at a point on the opposite side of the river close

to the town of Ba from thence 60 fathoms inland on a course north 23 deg. East thence following

a line of mangrove bush out to the Ba River and thence following the river bank to the point of


In a large number of instances the descriptions they were given did not fit the boundaries they

found on the ground. Moreover there was a growing dissatisfaction amongst the natives when

they began to realise that they were parting with some of their lands for ever. The position was

clearly desperate because the Commissioner of Lands recommended in January 1879 that

special steps be taken to try and engage suitably qualified surveyors in Sydney. Later in the

same year the Chief Secretary went to Sydney for this purpose. He was able to offer a salary of

£200 a year for an initial probationary period of 3 months and £300 thereafter. Candidates were

to pay their fares to Fiji in the first place but would be entitled to a refund of the cost after 12

months' satisfactory service. Of the 4 surveyors engaged, one turned down the post before he

was due to sail "because he was getting married". Of the other three who travelled to Levuka,

one took one look at the place and promptly went back on board the ship and returned to


In spite of increase in survey staff the Surveyor-General and the Commissioner of Lands

stressed that not only was the survey staff still pitifully small for dealing with the results of the

Lands Commission but it was wholly inadequate to deal with new applications for land received

since Cession. They went on to remind Government that no steps had yet been taken to deal

with the problem of defining the lands in the occupation of natives at the date of Cession nor the
lands likely to be required for their future maintenance and support, i.e. the 2nd and 3rd

categories mentioned in Clause 4 of the Deed of Cession. Government maintained that the chief

cause of the delay in carrying out fully the intent of Clause 4 of the Deed of Cession was

attributed to the slowness of survey work.

In his report dated December 31 1878 to the Governor on the progress in land survey during the

years 1875-78 the Surveyor-General noted that his survey staff had been engaged primarily on

the preparation of sketch plans for the Lands Commission, the preparation of finished survey

plans for Crown Grants and had in addition carried out a few surveys for private individuals in

accordance with the Real Property Ordinance 1876. Amongst articles of survey equipment the

Department had 11 theodolites (six 5 inch theodolites and 1 transit instrument having been

brought out from Army Stores in London but paid for by the Fiji Government), a number of

prismatic compasses and several 66ft. metallic tapes and chains. The theodolites cost £30 each

and the compasses £3 each. A good stock of drawing instruments was available, including bow-

pens, parallel rulers, lengthening-bar feeder and pencil and Antiquarian Drawing Paper.

The Surveyor-General claimed that the prismatic compass was proving to be a most

untrustworthy instrument in Fiji because of the magnetic iron content of the

ground and quoted one surveyor in Vanua Levu who recorded a magnetic attraction of as

much as l8deg" and another in Taveuni who found that the Vatu Viri Rock at Vuna Point

gave an attraction of 19 degrees i.e. an error of 27 chains at the end of a mile long line.

Because of the unreliability of the compass it was deemed advisable to rely on theodolites

for boundary survey work.

Even in the case of Crown Grants for which survey plans were being prepared the standard of

Survey was not high and both the Surveyor-General and the Commissioner of Lands felt that to

continue with the acceptance of rough boundary definition and rough recording for the sake of

expediency alone could only lead to confusion and greater expense in the long run. Their reason
for such a view is illustrated by the description of how blocks were surveyed in Taveuni. A

surveyor was sent there in February 1877 to lay down true meridian (from Taveuni he was to go

on to do the same at Savusavu). On Taveuni he was then to survey sections of "the coast-lines

by laying down theodolite traverses and from his traverse lines pick up the details of the coast

line by offsets measured off with linen tapes. The boundary marks of claims on the coastal

frontage were then located and marked on the ground. From these marks the angles of straight

side lines were measured by theodolite and the distances computed from the intersected

positions of back boundaries. In taking out areas of blocks surveyors were told that "the only

computations required should be on one sheet showing latitudes and departures, double

longitudes and north and south double areas". There was no time to cut and mark the full length

of the side lines nor the rear boundaries of blocks.

Surveyors worked under difficult conditions. They computed and plotted their work as and when

they could in their primitive camps. Although working mainly near coast-lines they were

discouraged from hiring boats to get from place to place but told to walk in order to keep

expenditure to the minimum. A surveyor on the Tailevu coast who was instructed to proceed to

survey 2 lots on the Waidina River was told "Your best means of transit from where you are is to

walk overland until you strike the river (an easy day's march) and then go down the river by

canoe". Nor was great regard paid to the personal convenience of surveyors. A surveyor

working in Suva was instructed to proceed forthwith to Levuka "to catch the cutter leaving

Levuka tomorrow for Bua". The records do not show how or whether the surveyor succeeded in

complying with this instruction.

The offices of Commissioner of Lands and Surveyor-General were combined in 1880 under the

control of the Commissioner of Lands and Crown Surveyor. In an official memorandum to the

Governor in that year the Crown Surveyor estimated that given adequate information a surveyor

should be able to clear and survey half a mile a day. Allowing one third of his working time in

the office and 200 days a year in the field this should mean that a surveyor should be able to
complete 100 miles a year. He went on to say that this rate of work had been achieved by a

surveyor who had satisfactorily surveyed 30 miles along broken coast-line and through difficult

heavily forested country in Savusavu in 121 days "including Sundays, wet days and the time

taken to get from Levuka to Savusavu". However, fortunately for all concerned except possibly

the surveyor, the surveyor's mobility was assisted by the fact that few of them were married and

there is no record that those who were married ventured to take their wives with them into the

field. There is no doubt at all, however, that the land surveyors working in Fiji in the l870's and

1880's like their contemporaries in the African colonies, were resolute, tough and extremely

versatile men whose great work we lesser mortals of the 20th century would do well to respect.

In spite of the difficulties which surveyors must have encountered in carrying out their work the

Crown Surveyor was evidently a task-master. In a letter dated October 24, 1882 he reprimanded

a surveyor working in rugged country in the Upper Rewa for slow progress and asked for an

immediate explanation as to why he had surveyed only 6 miles 23.56 chains in 54 days

including Sundays, an average of no more than 63 chains a week. A month later he rejects the

work of another surveyor in the rugged highlands of Navua because "a line 86 chains long

plotted 1½ degrees out". In April 1881 a surveyor in the field wrote in asking for permission to

engage the assistance of an office-hand. The Crown Surveyor replied very cryptically by return

mail. "A surveyor should be able to do his work without assistance." In August 1881 we find

the Crown Surveyor writing to a Government Surveyor working on difficult country in very wet

weather on the survey of Calia freehold in Navua in these terms:-

"I bring to your notice the following:

   1. You appear to have left out a line.

   2. Your tables for lots and traverses close reasonably accurately yet have made an error in
      addition of 503 links.

   3. One line bearing 90 degrees for 86 chains plots 1½ degrees out of position.

       I hereby have to inform you that His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to accept

       your resignation as a Licensed Surveyor of this Colony."
It was soon after 1880 that we find reference to the employment of draughtsmen in the Lands

and Survey headquarters. In 1881 two European draughtsmen from overseas were engaged

especially for the charting of survey plans on general maps. Their very high class penmanship

can be seen in the specimen showing the coast-line near Navua which was drawn at this time.

With effect from 1880 the Government provided all instruments required by Government

Surveyors and continued to supply labourers from Levuka. Each surveyor had six labourers - all

described as Polynesians - and Government provided sulus for them plus a basic daily ration and

wages at the rate of four shillings a week. (At that time rice was available in Levuka at £17/10/0

a ton and flour at £16 - £18 a ton). Surveyors also carried medicine chests for the treatment of

minor ailments. In June 1880 the Crown Surveyor wrote to a Government Surveyor that

according to monthly requests for medicines the surveyor appeared to be feeding his labourers

on "Dourer's Powder"!

Whereas the Lands Commission of 1875 completed its investigation of all claims by 1879, the

actual survey of the lands granted was not completed until about 1885. Every year from 1875

new lands were being sold or leased and these too had to be surveyed to meet the requirements

of the provisions of the Real Property Ordinance of 1876. Each year the method and accuracy

of survey improved. In 1884 work began on plotting all surveys on general plans of the colony

so that each survey was related to the next. Apart from proving a good basic record of the

surveys and a very valuable reservoir of survey data, this work also served to bring out clearly

any overlapping of title boundaries. Gone were the days when three Crown Grants were issued

in respect of the same parcel of land. These general maps were at first plotted on a scale of 1½

ins to the mile. Later a scale of 6 ins. to the mile was used. These were the predecessors of what

are now known as Standard Sheets on which all survey plans of properties are charted.

In 1885 surveyors were assigned to special districts where they were required to lay down true

meridians to which independent surveys were connected. Wherever possible they were required

to carry one meridian as far as they could. Nevertheless it was still not possible accurately to
relate the survey information of one district to the next. However, in so far as land registered

under the Real Property Ordinance was concerned the survey establishment of 11 Government

and 3 or 4 private surveyors appears to have been able to keen pace with demands for survey.
                                            Chapter III

                      Investigation and Survey of Native Lands 1880-1905

The legislation necessary to deal with the definition and survey of lands in the actual use of, or

occupation of, some chief or tribe at the date of Cession or actually required for the future

support and maintenance of the natives (i.e. categories 2 and 3 of Clause U of the Deed of

Cession was not introduced until the first Native Lands Ordinance was enacted in 1880. This

Ordinance accepted the mataqali as the Fijian landowning- unit and the extent of the land owned

by each unit. The Ordinance prescribed that a Register of Native Lands should be set up and

maintained "as a public record of the native lands as distinguished from the lands granted by the

Crown to Europeans and those of which the property remains in the Crown". Incidentally this

Ordinance prescribed that the lands belonging to any mataqali which became extinct should

revert to the Grown as "ultimus haeres". It also prescribed that that Governor-in-Council at the

request of the Fijian people could divide the land of a mataqali amongst the individual members

of that mataqali, such individuals to hold the land in fee simple in the same way as European

settlers held their freehold grants. Moreover it provided that native land could be alienated in

fee simple "through the Crown".

A Native Lands Commission which was set up under the 1880 Ordinance and began its work in

1884 endeavoured to follow the strict interpretation of the Deed of Cession by ascertaining the

extent of lands actually occupied by the various land-owning units at the date of Cession nine

years earlier and by estimating the land likely to be required for their future maintenance.

Progress was very slow for two reasons. The difficulty in carrying out investigations satisfact-

orily was one, and the lack of any worthwhile topographical maps was another*

The passage of the 1880 Native Lands Ordinance posed a fresh problem for surveyors. The

Native Lands Commission had no general maps to guide them though it had the benefit of all the

survey plans prepared by surveyors when dealing with surveys of freehold Grants approved by

the 1875 Lands Commission and subsequent surveys made under the 1876 Real Property
Ordinance. But whereas in many cases in its investigation of claims to freehold the 1875 Lands

Commission was assisted by the pre-Cession plans submitted by claimants, the Fijian land-

owners could not supply the 1880 Native Lands Commission with any written record of their

land either by way of plans or written descriptions. As mentioned earlier, every Fijian land-

owning unit "knew" the boundaries of its land on the ground. This meant that the Native Lands

Commission was required to start virtually from scratch. It had to establish who the land-

owners were, where their boundaries were located, and then prepare a description of the

boundaries to enable surveyors to proceed. Where boundaries did not follow natural features

such as rivers, coastlines or pronounced ridges, outstanding trees were identified and mounds of

earth or piles of stones were made. There was one added complication. The Native Lands

Commission recorded the descriptions of native boundaries approved to natives in the Fijian

language and although there is evidence that many of the surveyors could speak and understand

the language, nevertheless it was found necessary to translate the boundary description from

Fijian into English. This was in itself a source of confusion. It was so easy to misinterpret a

Fijian expression. Even 40 years after the boundary line between two mataqali holdings in

Naitasiri was surveyed, a boundary dispute suddenly arose between the two mataqali, which can

only be attributed to the translation of "qai gole ki Navunidoi". In interpreting this expression

on the ground the surveyor did "turn" the boundary line towards Navunidoi but it seems he may

not have turned it sharply enough.

From 1885 until 1905 more and more of Government's survey staff was engaged on

topographical survey mainly in order to facilitate the work of the Native Lands Commission.

Each surveyor seems to have resorted to his own triangulation scheme to provide adequate

control for the topographic work in his own district. The boundaries of land previously

surveyed were connected to the triangulation system but topographic details were sketched in by

eye. Whatever the limitations of these plans they did serve to enable the Native Lands

Commission to proceed with its investigations. But the Commission's progress was desperately
slow. The task of endeavouring to define amicably and precisely what land Fijians actually

occupied in 1875 became more difficult each year. Only a trickle of descriptions of boundaries

was being produced by the Commission. Moreover, as the surveyors continued to survey these

boundaries with the theodolite and chain and connected boundary marks to their own district

triangulation system the progress in survey was not rapid. The surveys of native lands carried

out at this period were termed Tribal Boundary Surveys and the plans produced from these were

known as Buliship Plans. Some of them survive today.

From 1900 onwards Government began to re-consider the practicability of continuing to try to

define separately the lands which were actually occupied by Fijians in 1875 and the lands likely

to be needed for their future support and maintenance. In 1904/5 this approach was abandoned

and henceforth the Native Lands Commission began to deal with the lands which Fijians

claimed they owned at the date of the sitting of the Commission. This change meant that claims

of lands in categories 2 and 4 of the Deed of Cession were to be combined and treated as one.

This resulted in much faster progress in the investigations of the Native Lands Commission. It

was in 1905 also that a new law was introduced to permit native owners once more to sell the

freehold of their lands by making Native Grants. At about the same time Government began to

realise that complications were arising when surveyors tried to fit one district plan to next.

Since the so-called Tribal Boundaries and the boundaries of new Native Grants crossed and re-

crossed the line between one district survey plan and the next, the work of plotting these

boundaries was becoming more and more difficult.

The Government had now devised a system whereby boundaries of native land could be quickly

defined but had not the staff, nor the basic survey control to keep pace with the demands for

boundary surveys. The survey situation was clearly difficult and in 1905 it was found necessary

to introduce an amendment to the Native Lands Ordinance to permit leases of native land

containing less than 10 acres to be issued without proper survey. It soon became apparent

however that this was a misguided expediency. Endless boundary disputes arose and endless
problems cropped up in trying to locate the boundaries of such leases. After a short trial period

of 5 years the practice was abandoned, and with effect from November 1, 1910 all leases and

other titles to be registered in the Real Property Register had to be properly surveyed.
                                             Chapter IV

                         Prescription of Method and Accuracy of Surveys

In 1907 Regulations governing survey of lands to be registered in the Real Property register

were enacted for the first time. These prescribed the manner in which boundaries should be

marked, the manner in which boundaries of different lots were to be connected, and also laid

down that all angles of boundaries should be surveyed in relation to true meridian. Surveyors

were to supply themselves with two chains, one of which was to be used as a standard chain, the

actual length of which was to be checked from time to time with the standard of length which

the Survey Department had laid down on the Eastern verandah of the Queen Victoria Memorial

Hall in Suva. It will be noted that these regulations made no attempt to prescribe what methods

were to be used in carrying out the boundary surveys, nor what instruments were to be used.

Nor did they attempt to lay down minimum standards of accuracy. These matters were still left

to the discretion of the individual surveyor.

The 1907 Regulations remained in force until 1924. On December 10, 1924, the 1907 Survey

regulations were repealed and replaced by more comprehensive regulations. For the first time in

the history of land survey in Fiji it was decreed that "all survey lines shall be run out

instrumentally and angles measured with a carefully adjusted transit theodolite" and "all linear

measurement shall be made with a steel or invar band". Since these 1924 Regulations have

remained substantially unchanged and are in force today it is necessary to consider them in some

detail. The Regulations presented for the first time the minimum degree of accuracy of

boundary surveys. The error of closure of any new survey when tested by latitude and departure

was limited to 2 links per mile (i.e. approximately 1/4,000) of the total perimeter in level and

undulating country, and 3 links per mile (i.e. 1/2670) in mountainous country, provided that

when a survey involved the use of another surveyor's work on a previous survey a closure of 4

links would be acceptable (i.e. 1/2000). The water-lines of freshwater swamps were not to be

adopted as permanent boundaries. In the case of land where none of the boundaries followed
natural features reference bearings and linear distance from boundary marks to well defined

permanent features were required. All new surveys were to be connected to marks set in

previous surveys and in cases of isolated and detached surveys connections were to be made to

traverse or trigonometrical stations of the main survey frame work.

The 1924 regulations remained in force until 1935. In that year certain amendments were

introduced, the principal being concerned with standards of accuracy. This maximum

acceptable error for boundaries in level and undulating country was reduced from 2 links per

mile to 1½ links (i.e. from 1/4OOO to 1/5333).

The accuracy for rough country remained at 3 links per mile (i.e. approximately 1/2667). An

additional 1 link per mile was permitted where a boundary survey carried out by a previous

surveyor was adopted. These standards have remained unchanged to this day.
                                            Chapter V

                                      Trigonometrical Survey

It was during the period from 1905 to 1939, that what were undoubtedly the two most

momentous occurrences in the history of survey in Fiji took place. In 1908 the Government was

persuaded to the view that it was most unwise to go on surveying lands in independent parcels

with only flimsy connections between each one. The problem of fitting new surveys of

registered titles on to old plans, which was already difficult enough, was being further

complicated by the sale of freehold native lands which was permitted during 1905-8 and by the

advent of leases of native land to Indian immigrants. A comprehensive framework of accurately

surveyed points to which all surveys of boundaries could be connected was considered an urgent

necessity. Once this framework was established a reliable plan recording system could be

evolved and, moreover, provided steps were taken to ensure that all future boundary surveys

were properly connected to this framework, a first-class reliable boundary record could be


On October 26th, 1908 an officer of the Corps of Royal Engineers, known as the Superintendent

of the Trig. Survey, with a civilian assistant named Mr. Travis Rimmer, arrived in the colony to

carry out the principal triangulation of Viti Levu. Captain Ley was succeeded shortly afterwards

by Mr. G.T. McCaw.

In view of the very significant part which this operation has played in the history of land survey

in Fiji the aims and objects and the methods by which the work was carried out is dealt with at

some length.

The technical instructions issued initially to the officer in charge were to cover Viti Levu with a

system of triangles with sides from 10 to 20 miles long;

to measure a primary and a check base with probable errors not exceeding 1:50,000; to observe

an initial latitude with a probable error not exceeding 2" and an initial azimuth with a probable
error not exceeding 3.5". The mean triangular error of the main triangles was not to exceed 3".

Each station in the triangulation was to be marked in a permanent manner and topographical

sketches of the land in the neighbourhood of each station were to be made on a scale of 1 inch to

1 mile. The positions of all trig points, were to be computed in rectangular co-ordinates in feet.

The site of the primary base, which was to be measured carefully because it was the

measurement from which all other linear measurements would be computed, was selected at

Navua.   AS soon   as this site had been agreed upon the party proceeded to carry out a

reconnaissance of the entire island in order to locate suitable sites for trig stations, which would

provide where possible triangles with sides of equal length and equal angles.

The Navua base, approximately 3 miles in length and oriented N.N.E. - S.S.W. running along

the tongue of land between the banks of the Navua River and the coast on the east side of the

river was measured with invar tapes in 1910. After careful computation of the observations

obtained, the final measurement of the distance between base terminals was accepted with a

probable error of plus or minus 0.013 ft i.e. an accuracy of 1:150,000.

For the check base at Lautoka a straight line 3 miles 5 furlongs in length was selected running

from E.N.E. to W.S.W. from a point near the boundary of the Vitogo Estate. The measurement

of this line was computated and the final figure accepted with a probable error of plus or minus

0.067 ft.

The party completed its field work on Viti Levu and returned to England in March 1912. The

total cost of field work amounted to £6,970. The computations for the Viti Levu observation

and measurements were done in England free of charge to Fiji Government. The final report on

the Viti Levu exercise was not published until the spring of 1916. However, the greater part of

the definitive results was made available to the Lands and Survey Department by the middle of


The Trig Survey Party returned to Fiji in September 1912 to extend the triangulation of Viti
Levu across to Vanua Levu and Taveuni. The base line for this part of the work was measured

from Nasekula towards the sea at Tua Tua and the final measurement over the 3½ miles was

accepted at plus or minus 0.015ft. This assignment was completed in the field by the end of

1915 at a cost of £6,850. The party left Fiji soon afterwards and final computation was done in

the United Kingdom. Although the definitive results were made available to the Survey

Department from time to time as they were completed because of the demands of the 1914-18

war, the final report was not published until 1917.

Until this day the so-called "McCaw Survey" of Fiji is universally regarded as a "classic". Not

only has it proved of inestimable value in the control of boundary surveys but it has also proved

of very great value to all hydrographic surveyors who have worked in Fiji waters since 1917.

Although known as McCaw's work, many of the Government surveyors who worked in Fiji at

the time consider that McCaw's assistant Rimmer was personally responsible for a great deal of

the results.

As the results of McCaw's work became available charts covering the whole of Viti Levu and

Vanua Levu at a scale of 16 chains to the inch were drawn. On one series of charts all

boundaries of land covered by the Real Property Ordinance of 1876, i.e. all land having a

Torrens Title were plotted. These have always been referred to as Standard Sheets. The other

set of charts on the same scale was designed to show topographic information and the

boundaries of native lands and to this day are known as Native Lands Commission Sheets.

In 1912—13 the establishment of field surveyors was greatly increased for two main purposes.

Firstly in order to run precise traverses between the survey stations which had been erected and

precisely surveyed by McCaw. These main circuit traverses were carried out with theodolites

and steel tapes. Secondly, in order to make headway with the increasing volume of work on

native land boundaries. It was in about 1910 that the work of surveying the boundaries of native

land which had previously been referred to as Tribal Boundary surveys became known as Native

Lands Commission surveys. They still retain this title and the plans compiled from them are still
referred to as the Native Lands Commission Sheets.
                                           Chapter VI

                               Survey of Native Lands 1905-1939

The second important feature of the period 1905 - 1939 was the re-organisation of the machinery

for the survey of native holdings. For this work a number of qualified and partly-qualified

surveyors were recruited - mainly from Australia. These were assisted by local recruits. With

the Native Lands Commission providing description of native boundaries and with the improved

survey control resulting- from McCaw's work and from the main circuit traverses, the huge task

of surveying native boundaries began in earnest. The work was not designed to be of a high

order of accuracy. The plane-table was the main instrument used and surveyors used resection

and intersection of rays to pick up the flagged native boundary marks. The in-filling of

topographic details was done by sketching by eye.

            During the period 1913 - 1930, for instance, the total number of licensed surveyors

and assistant surveyors working in the colony was rarely less than 30. Of these an average of 14

licensed surveyors were in private practice and the remainder in Government service: an average

of 12 or so of the complement of Government surveyors being engaged wholly on Native Lands

Commission surveys.

The output of these Native Lands Commission surveyors was tremendous. In 1915 for instance,

they surveyed 144 native lots covering an area of 53,000 acres at a cost of 3¾d per acre. It was

in 1915 that a new enlarged type of Plane Table was designed and made in Fiji which could

cover 15 square miles of country instead of 7½ square miles. In 1916 these surveyors completed

274 native lots covering 36,620 acres at a cost of 3d an acre. In that year one particular surveyor

is reported to have marched 600 miles and climbed heights equivalent to 75,000 ft. in the course

of one field season of 130 days.

            It must be borne in mind that because of the rapidity and simplicity with which the

native lots were surveyed the accuracy of the work was not expected to be high. In fact
experience has shown that some of the work was in error to the extent of hundreds of yards.

Nevertheless the surveyors performed a gigantic task. In the meantime, however, the proper

survey of leases was lagging behind and hundreds of leases remained unsurveyed year after

year. In his Report for 1917 the Commissioner of Lands recorded that there were 887 leases

covering 26,459 acres of land awaiting surveys. It was not until the 1930's that any appreciable

impression was made into this backlog.

The Native Lands Commission continued its investigations and the so-called Native Lands

Commission surveyors continued their field work until 1939/45. By that time the whole

country, except for small areas in Serua and some outlying islands, had been completed and for

the first time Fiji possessed what amounted to a complete inventory of land boundaries under

both the Real Property Law and the Native Lands Ordinance. Moreover in the 336 Native Lands

Commission Sheets Fiji possessed for the first time a topographic map coverage of 90% of the


The outbreak of war in 1939 saw the disbandment of the Native Lands Commission and of the

Native Lands Commission Survey Organisation. It will be noted that up to this time the general

maps of the country had been compiled by surveys of boundaries of holdings. Since land owners

had always paid for the surveys of the boundaries of their lands it was the land owner and not

Government who up to 1940 had gone to the task of providing the country's reservoir of survey

information and providing information for general maps.
                                           Chapter VII

        Introduction of Aerial Photographs and Other Modern Techniques in Surveying

Development in the history of surveying took a new turn in the 1940s when aerial survey

methods began to be used. In 1944 the New Zealand Aerial Mapping Limited took the first

vertical air photographs of Suva, Nausori and Lautoka to provide topographic maps of these

areas covering a total of 70 sq miles. A mosaic of Suva peninsula was also prepared with this


The first attempt to provide a major photo coverage was in 1951 when Huntings Aero Surveys

Ltd of U.K. photographed about 3,575 square miles of Fiji. This contract had to be terminated

owing to unfavourable weather conditions as a result of smoke haze from bush fires in Australia.

In 1952 Trimetrogon aerial survey was carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force to assist in

preliminary investigations for a hydrographic survey of the waters and reefs of Fiji. This

covered considerable portion of the sea and land areas of the Fiji Group. However it did not

cover the areas not photographed by Huntings Aero Surveys Ltd. In 1953 Adastra Airways

Proprietary Ltd of Sydney arrived to complete the photography commenced by Huntings. Of the

3,772 square miles remaining to be surveyed 1,506 square miles were completed and no further

work was possible on account of weather. These photographs were used for the production of

the latest series of topographical maps at a scale of 1:50,000. The gaps in the photography were

completed by Lands -Department Air Survey Unit.

Urgent requirement for large scale maps for town planning, road location and other development

projects provided the incentive for the formation of an Air Survey Section within the

Department of Lands in 1957. The Department's two senior officers Messrs R.H. Regnault and

E. Walker who were responsible for the formation of the unit had previous flight experience. By

pooling their experience and with the loan of a F.24.5” camera from the Royal New Zealand Air

Force and the cooperation of the local airline, using a Drover aircraft the first photographic

flight was made in August 1958. From the F.24 - Drover combination, photographs of most of
the townships were obtained. The Drover aircraft with its advantages of inexpensive operational

cost and the ability to operate from small airstrips, however, had a fairly limited role as a

photographic aircraft. Its ceiling limitation of 12,000 feet and endurance of 3¼ hours proved to

be unsuitable. During this period a D.H. Beaver amphibian was also used. From this aircraft

much useful photography was obtained and with the aid of a stereoscope small scale mapping

was accomplished. In 1957/58, the Royal New Zealand Air Force also took photography of the

Suva Peninsula and half of Rotuma Island.

The new medium of air photographs has also been used to complete some of the surveys of

native land boundaries which remained outstanding after 1940. In 1960 - 1961 the Lands

Department surveyed native land boundaries in Viwa Island in the Yasawa Group which had

been approved by the old Native Lands Commission, by air survey methods. Some 22 lots

covering an area of 1,230 acres were surveyed in 2½ weeks and the degree of accuracy is

assessed at 1:1000. The total cost of the work calculated at just over one dollar per acre. As a

result of the Viwa survey, one other survey, namely that of island of Vatulele has also been

carried by air survey methods.

In the period 1963 - 1967 a second more sophisticated camera in the form of K.17 was

purchased, the Drover again continued to be the vehicle, and from the Drover - K.17

combination some 4,500 square miles of photography was obtained. The stereotope was still the

only plotter available and it produced maps for agricultural and forestry purposes.

The Department began conducting experiments into the possibility of air survey technique for

the air survey of boundaries for land registered under the Torrens system of registration of title,

in the 1960s. In 1964 an experiment was carried out for numerical photogrammetry for cadastral

purposes, using K.17 photography and the Stereotope plotter. The subject of the experiment was

the Koro No. 1 subdivision, Tavua, a mixed arable and grazing subdivision of 50 lots covering

2,800 acres. The country is open rolling grassland varying in elevation from 300 ft to 1000 ft.

Complete ground markings of corners and control was performed and photography was obtained
from 6,500 ft. The intention had been initially to investigate the problems of ground marking

and administration of cadastral survey by air survey methods, as it was realised that the available

equipment was not capable of producing accurate positions of images. However, as an

experiment a procedure was devised for producing the coordinates of the pre-marked comers,

using a combination of mono-comparator and analogue plotter techniques using the Stereotope.

The entire perimeter of the survey plus an internal main road had an existing traverse and

coordinates of 23 points were available for comparison. The r.m.s. error on these points was 9.6

links which was about what had been expected. The experiment has not been repeated on any

further surveys. No doubt, with better equipment results would have been better also.

In 1965 an R.C. 8 Universal Aviogon camera was purchased by the Department of Lands. Also

purchased were one Thompson-Watts model 2 Stereo plotter, dia-positive plate processing

equipment and artificial photo-point marking and transfer equipment. A second Thompson-

Watts plotter was purchased in 1967 together with a Kern P.G. 2 plotter. A second Kern P.G. 2

plotter arrived in 1969. Further equipment acquired to date include N.F.I navigation sight, De-

vere enlarger, Wild E.K.8 Register and morse contact printer.

In July 1967 a new aircraft was introduced as the vehicle for air photography. The local air

company's twin-engined Beach craft Baron aircraft was specially modified to take the Lands

Department R.C. 8 camera and navigation equipment, and has been used since then for aerial

photography missions. Except for the aircraft and pilot the Department has been using its own

personnel and equipment to carry out flying missions.

The services provided by the Air Survey Section have been used both by the Government and

private developers. The main work carried out is topographical mapping for road location

surveys, land development, forestry, drainage and other projects. Apart from local assignments,

the Air Survey Section has, in the past, undertaken assignments in some of the smaller South

Pacific island territories as well.
The main islands of Fiji are almost fully covered by photography undertaken by Faireys Ltd in

1967 and by the Royal Air Force in 1974. Apart from this, a reasonably good coverage exists of

the more important areas, which are periodically photographed by the Department's Air Survey

Unit. More recently some aerial photography in Fiji has been undertaken by overseas agencies

for particular projects, such as forestry and drainage schemes. Such photography has been

carried out under the separate overseas aid programmes of Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The first orthophoto-maps ever of Fiji would be produced in 1978 under Australian Aid

programme for the drainage schemes.

The use of electronic distance measuring techniques in Fiji was first introduced in 1961 when a

surveyor from the Directorate of Overseas Surveys spent 4½ months here carrying out

tellurometer surveys. During this period the field party completed a very tight schedule of

distance measurement programme of 117 stations. The total length of lines measured with the

tellurometer was 1,378 miles.

In order to facilitate cadastral as well as geodetic survey control the Lands Department acquired

its first tellurometer MRA 3 Mark II in 1965 for long distance measurements and 2 Wild

Distomats in 1970 for short distance measurements. Recently a more modem electronic

equipment namely the AGA 12 geodimeter has been acquired for short distance measurements.

Some private survey firms also have similar equipment.
                                           Chapter VIII

                                     Metrication in Surveying

Decision has been made this year to changeover to the metric system of measurement in land

surveying and land records and steps are being taken to implement the changeover. This gives

an unique opportunity to bring about significant improvements to the whole survey and mapping

system, which would involve deciding on a new projection that should be adopted, and also the

design of the grid system and map sheet layout. In order to assess the various requirements for a

proper implementation of the whole project, the Lands & Survey Department would initiate a

comprehensive study with the following objectives:-

            (a) Selection of a map projection that will be suitable for most uses and which gives

            satisfactory map and chart coverage of the whole of the land and sea area under the

            jurisdiction of Fiji. The projection and the map grid system adopted in 1910 are

            outdated for use in any extension or revision of mapping.

            (b) development of a system of metric coordinates and a map grid that can be used

            for all purposes including survey control, land boundary surveys, forest surveys,

            land record sheets, cadastral mapping, topographical mapping, geological mapping,

            soil surveys, aeronautical charting, hydrographic charting, mine surveys,

            construction layout, records of underground services etc.

            (c) Design of a sheet layout and scales for all the different types and series of maps,

            charts and record sheets that will best suit the future needs of Fiji.

            (d) Assessment of the basic survey control that will be needed and of the nature and

            extent of the work needed to upgrade and readjust the existing triangulation.

            (e) consideration of the most economical and expeditious way to develop the

            survey and mapping organisations to achieve the desired objectives including the

            training of staff, acquisition of equipment and the co-ordination of all survey and

            mapping work.
The completion of the proposed feasibility study and implementation of its recommendations

would provide an up to date basic framework for survey and mapping of the whole of Fiji.

Furthermore, in view of the proposals on the 200 mile economic zone based on the archipelagic

concept, it would also provide a proper basis for the definition of Fiji’s territorial boundaries and

for the mapping of the resources within these boundaries.

In conjunction with the changeover from imperial to metric system of measurement which

required changes to the existing Surveyors regulations, opportunity has been taken up by

government to make a comprehensive revision of the Surveyors regulations. The revision is

almost complete and the new regulations should become effective probably early 1978. The

revised regulations place greater onus on the Surveyor to maintain high survey and professional

                                             Chapter IX

                                        Role of Surveyors

As can be seen from this paper, both government and private surveyors have played their

respective roles in the surveys of Fiji from pre-Cession days until today. The respective role of

private and government surveyors has become more distinct in recent times, partly because of

the definition of the categories of land. Government surveyors carry out only Crown land

surveys which means all public lands of Fiji including foreshores and soil under waters of Fiji

and all lands which have been acquired by the government for any public purpose. Government

is also responsible for main control survey, extensions of existing trigonometrical survey

network and the maintenance of all triangulation control points. Furthermore government

surveyors carry out investigation surveys where it becomes essential to intervene in boundary

disputes. Government is also charged with the duty of inspecting the work both of private and

government surveyors from time to time so that standards of accuracy are being maintained. In

the engineering survey field, government surveyors carry out engineering surveys for

development of Crown lands only.    AS far   as hydrographic surveying is concerned, they are only

involved in the provision of controls for these, the actual survey of marine details being done by,

the hydrographic survey unit of the government.

Private surveyors on the other hand mostly carry out cadastral surveys of private freeholds and

native lands. The survey of freeholds is normally done for registration, in terms of the Land

Transfer Act, of sale of a parcel upon subdivision. The surveys of Native land are done on

behalf of the Native Land Trust Board (the authority administering Native land) for the purpose

of granting registered leases. Apart from these surveys, Government may, where it becomes

economical to do so, issue instructions to private surveyors to survey Crown lands. Private

surveyors with engineering experience undertake a lot of work connected with tourism

development which may involve the complete exercise from the client advice and planning stage

of a hotel or housing development to the completion of the surveying and engineering works
associated with it. For example, they are currently engaged in planning and development of

three large resort complexes in Fiji.
                                            Chapter X

                                      Training of Surveyors

Prior to the coming into force of the Purveyors Act in 1970 the control of the profession and

registration of land surveyors was the responsibility of the Director of Lands & Surveys,

although until 1959 official authority was in the hands of the Governor who issued commissions,

mainly to overseas qualified surveyors, based on the recommendations of the Director of Lands.

Whereas until 1945 all boundary surveys of lands to be registered under the Torrens system of

registration of title had been surveyed by fully qualified surveyors, since 1945 more and more

use has been made of trained survey technical assistants to relieve the qualified surveyors of

routine functions in boundary surveys. With improved standards of education, particularly

technical education, the capability of survey technical assistants has steadily increased. The

ultimate responsibility for the work carried out by them however lies with the registered

surveyor supervising their work.

The training of local candidates was accelerated in 1960 under the Director of Lands & Surveys.

However, the full responsibility for the training of students, the control of the profession and

registration of surveyors whether local or overseas qualified has passed since 1970 to the

Surveyors Registration Board established under the provisions of the Surveyors Act 1969 which

came into force on 1 January 1970. The Board is responsible for the registration of Surveyors,

the regulation of the profession and advising the Minister on all matters relating to the survey of

land in Fiji.

Under the Surveyors Act, regulations have been made in respect of students examinations and

experience before registration. Rules relating to the minimum qualifications, examination

syllabus and related matters are also established by the Board. The examination is conducted by

the officers of the Ministry of Lands with all results being confirmed and issued by the Board.

The pattern of training both in Government and private practice consists primarily of on the job

instruction given by supervisory staff. To assist the students with the examinations there are
local tutorials, correspondence course assignment, special job attachments and issue of notes.

The examinations are held twice annually in April and October. Since the inception of training

programme in 1951, 24 students have qualified as surveyors. As at May, 1977, 75 students were

registered with the Board. Those candidates who do not complete the Surveyors Registration

Board examinations within 9 years of starting the course or any further period allowed by the

Board, remain at a survey technician level. The minimum time in which a student can complete

the examinations and qualify for registration as a Surveyor is five years.
                                           Chapter XI

                               Professional Society of Surveyors

In 1956 a group of surveyors from both government service and private practice met and formed

a professional body. This body, known as Association of Surveyors Fiji, has been active and

moribund over the years, these fluctuations being the result of several factors, mostly beyond


The Association was wound up in 1964 but re-activated in 1969. Since then there have been

some inactive periods. However, it has recently shown signs of being capable of operating as a

viable and effective body. The Association made its contribution towards the proposals for the

revision of the Surveyors regulations, updating of survey fees and other matters pertaining to


The Association is a member of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land

Economy and operates from the Fiji Professional Centre. The current membership stands at 45

members made up of 33 full members and 12 student members.

It can be said that the processes in the early development of land survey in Fiji were

somewhat unusual. In most newly discovered countries it was the general topographic

survey of the countries as a whole which received attention first. The survey and

recording of individual parcels followed after this. In this way the basic natural

features received the greater and earlier prominence whilst the definition of the arti-

ficial boundaries of the separate parcels was dealt with later. Here in Fiji the reverse

was the case. From the earliest days of European settlement surveying was largely

restricted to the survey of boundaries of separate parcels. The general survey and

mapping of the country as a whole came years later. However, this reverse approach

has in fact proved beneficial.

Fiji unlike some other developing countries and the Pacific neighbours is in a

fortunate position in that it has a complete record of land ownership boundaries. This

is due mainly to Fiji having had administrators with sufficient farsightedness to

appreciate the value of early adjudication of land ownership, the Torrens System of

registration of title to land, and the considerable benefits which accrue from the

establishment of a sound survey system. With the rapid technological advancement in

survey equipment and techniques there is a challenging and indeed in some respects

an exciting time ahead in the field of surveying in Fiji.


1.   Annual Reports and unpublished material, Department of Lands & Survey.

2.   Derrick, R. A. (1951) “The Fiji Islands”.

3.   Derrick, R. A. (1946) "History of Fiji". Government Press, Suva.

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