The first female Surveyor General, Narelle Underwood

By on 7 September, 2016


Narelle Underwood has been appointed as Surveyor General of New South Wales, a major role within the state government responsible for leadership in surveying, mapping and geographic information. The appointment makes Underwood both the first woman to hold the role across all Australian states, and the youngest in the state in 200 years.

Following the partial privatisation of the New South Wales land agency that the position is held within, Land and Property Information (LPI), Underwood will replace Des Mooney who has served as Surveyor General for the past five years.

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The appointment was announced by Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Secretary, Martin Hoffman who said Underwood brings a wealth of experience, most recently as the Acting Principal Surveyor at NSW Roads and Maritime Services.

“Ms Underwood is a leader in her profession working as an advisor to the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information and Chair of the Surveying Mapping and Industry Council,” said Mr Hoffman.

Ms Underwood is a leader in her profession.”- Martin Hoffman, Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Secretary

“She has also played a significant role in promoting and developing the survey profession, particularly in the tertiary sector and with young professionals.”


One of Australia’s most famous Surveyor Generals was surveyor and explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell who served in the role from 1828 to 1855.

The role of the Surveyor General dates back to 1787 when Augustus Alt was the first to be appointed to the position before his arrival with the First Fleet. On behalf of the NSW government, the role of Surveyor General is to lead the land and mining surveying professions in NSW, ensuring that the profession meets community expectations and helps deliver on the Government’s objectives.

Ms Underwood will be NSW’s 25th Surveyor General since in 1787. As such she will be responsible for serving as President of the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI), chairing the Geographical Names Board of NSW; using location intelligence to better deliver urban planning, community services and infrastructure; acting as Electoral Boundaries Commissioner; and sharing knowledge and set standards at a national level with federal, state and territory counterparts.

Underwood described the new appointment as both exciting and challenging: “Being the first female Surveyor General will place my name in the history books alongside people who have made a significant impact to the development of NSW,” she said. “I have always seen the role of Surveyor General as the pinnacle of the surveying profession.”

Underwood also hopes that the appointment will serve as an example for women and young surveyors looking to enter a surveying career.

“Surveying is currently a male dominated profession, and we are also facing a significant skills shortage,” she said. “I hope that my appointment to the role can be an example to young surveyors, in particular females, that there are a wide variety of career options available to them. I’m coming into the role at a time of great opportunity and change for the spatial and surveying sector.”

“I hope to be a role model for all (male and female) surveying and spatial professionals, ensuring that the profession embraces that change and capitalises on the opportunities available.”

At 32 years old, Underwood is not the youngest person to have taken the role, but she is the youngest in 200 years. Previous Surveyor Generals included Charles Grimes who was appointed in 1803 at the age of 31 and John Oxley was appointed in 1812 at the age of 29.

Underwood is a graduate of the University of New South Wales, where she was recognised for her brilliance by winning the University Medal. She has since been employed by Roads and Maritime Services where she completed a graduate program and became a registered surveyor before quickly excelling into senior roles such as Southern Region Survey Manager and Acting Principal Surveyor.

Underwood will commence her new role on 4 October 2016.


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