Surveyors were the unsung professionals following in the footsteps of the pioneer British – Government backed explorers who opened up Queensland and who laid the foundation of the land administration system in the future state of Qld.
The early surveying tools were simple and labour intensive. The conditions were harsh. The unfamiliar weather conditions were extreme and the long distances meant finding water supplies, setting up camps, keeping food fresh and transport on track done amongst hostile wildlife and vegetation. Assistance from locals or Indigenous guides was often required to overcome the challenges to work and follow health instructions.
Politics were entrenched around the notion of all land being Crown Land and compliant or forced dismantling of the culture and languages of the various Indigenous groups on the Darling Downs, but the surveyors worked under higher orders. Their brief was to lay the groundwork for opening up land to transform the colonial settlements into organised and recorded patterns and structures.
The first detailed surveys were needed around 1830 when Moreton Bay converted from a penal settlement to a free settlement. Feature surveys that mapped ranges and watercourses were the first to be completed by the professional surveyors who initially had to come from outside the state. Delicate instruments needing precision and accuracy needed efficient surveyors.
A diversity of tools were used at various times – distances were measured with chains and perambulators, and angles were measured with circumventors and theodolites. – all measuring, detailing and recording parcels of either Crown or freehold land. As these parcels spread, the administration of the areas became much more complex. A more organised system of administrative area types was required and pastoral districts or counties were introduced.
Next came the surveying of towns, and the rise of Drayton, then Toowoomba thanks to the surveyors and their skills.