Stop the presses: Geoscience Australia cancels paper maps

By on 9 October, 2019

Geoscience Australia has announced that it will stop printing and selling topographic maps by December 13, 2019.

The agency made the announcement, along with the launch of a new digital repository for its topographic map product late last week — after an ABC News story revealed the move and some unhappy reception to the news a day earlier.

Geoscience Australia says that demand has dropped considerably in recent years, as federal budget cuts force the agency to find an extra $5 million.

“Over a number of years, we’ve seen a rapid decline in demand for hardcopy maps and we can no longer sustain the storage, maintenance and delivery costs of our paper map services,” said Dr. Martine Woolf, Geoscience Australia’s Acting Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division.

The move will see the agency’s maps at scales 1:50,000; 1:100,000; 1:250,000 and over 1:500,000 solely available online, published under a Creative Commons licence.

“There are a number of commercial and state-run services that can provide printed topographic information across the same scale as the maps we previously provided in hard copy,” Dr. Woolf said.

“We believe the future of topographic maps is in providing accurate and freely available information for anyone, anywhere to create their own maps – for example, our maps are covered by Creative Commons and can be recreated by commercial businesses with the attribution to Geoscience Australia.

If people need a printed hardcopy map at short notice, they can also download our maps and take them to a local provider to print at the size and quality to suit their needs.”

Whilst most maps best suited to bushwalking and other outdoor activities in remote regions are 1:25,000 scale, Claire Drabsch, a professional tour guide with Trek Tours Australia told the ABC that larger scales are critical while working in remote areas — and questioned the availability of tearproof paper in remote regions.

“The maps are really important for us to have in the field — not only from a safety point of view, but also from an interest point of view and an education point of view for our guests,” she said.

“You need to be able to see not just what’s happening in the next few hundred metres, but what’s happening in the whole area around you. You don’t want to end up at the top of a cliff and then have to walk an extra 3 kilometres around.”

You can access Geoscience Australia’s new, freely available digital maps index here.

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