Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012
Stacks of theodolites, piles of measuring devices and more than 130 pairs of scrutinising eyes have descended on Invercargill for the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors' annual conference.
Southland surveyor Don Moir said the group, which represents the surveying profession throughout the country, was poised for the biggest shake-up of its 124-year history.
With all walks of life increasingly reliant on information technology, a whole new profession, outside of any established body, was springing up, he said.
The main talking point of the four-day conference at the Ascot Park Hotel would be how the institute could bring the new kind of surveyors, such as geographic information system (GIS) operators employed by most territorial authorities, into the institute.
There were several thousand GIS operators in the country, while surveyors numbered fewer than 1000, Mr Moir said.
GIS operators take digital information, such as satellite photographs, and put it together into maps. It is a role which attracts many surveyors, but also people with other qualifications not covered by the institute.
They did not fit into the established boundaries of the profession, he said.
"What we're finding is that there is a big body of practitioners building up in that area and they don't have anybody to represent them," he said.
Southland last hosted the conference 20 years ago.
New Zealand's land information system is almost entirely computerised, with surveyors filing their reports and information to Land Information New Zealand through a system called Land Online, Mr Moir said.
"Even your basic theodolite is fully electronic now. I doubt anyone makes an optical one."
When he started work, surveyors used measuring tapes, mechanical adding machines and log tables to make calculations. Now, almost everything involved computers, with many surveyors able to send information wirelessly back to their office as they were gathering it, he said.
- The Southland Times