Q&A with Craig Sandy

By on 28 February, 2018

Craig Sandy is the Surveyor-General for Victoria. Having joined the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in August 2017, he brings a diverse and detailed set of experience to the role.  Having held positions with Esri Australia in business development and as a Survey, Mapping and SDI principal, he has a firm grip on where the industry is heading and the role of GIS and data within it. Craig sat down with Position magazine to offer an exclusive insight into his designs for the role.

You bring extensive industry experience to your new role as Victorian Surveyor General. What are some of your career highlights prior to accepting this position?

Accepting the role as Northern Territory Surveyor-General and and having the opportunity to deliver a solution that provides for a future in electronic plan lodgement: linking the components of planning, survey and title registration in a single system.  I’m also pleased to have assisted in a small way to help deliver the national water accounts and working with people across the water and groundwater industries. Participating in the organisation committee of FIG 2010 Congress Sydney was certainly a highlight, and I’m pleased to have been recognised for my services to the Surveying and Spatial Sciences with the 2009 ACT Service to the Industry award.

How has your experience in the business side of geospatial shaped your perspective on the surveying industry?

My professional background has provided me a much broader view of the use of the data created from the surveying world, and how it can be used in a variety of applications.  My work across a number of jurisdictions and technical disciplines has been beneficial in understanding the application and use of data. The most important aspect is understanding the users and their requirements. From a surveying perspective this is changing rapidly, and our focus must be more on the wider use of the data than just its original intended purpose.

What are your personal objectives for your tenure as Surveyor-General?

My passion is in ensuring that the Victorian land development process is efficient and benefits all stakeholders. A starting point is to convert the land development process to digital and ensure the components are linked appropriately. Victoria has an excellent system in place called SPEAR (Surveying and Planning through Electronic Applications and Referrals). This provides a foundation for a data-driven process that captures data once, and re-uses it. My interest is in the survey components of the process and the management of survey data captured.

Capturing survey data digitally is essential to the productivity of the land development process. Creating a two-way flow of survey data between the digital cadastre and surveyors is essential to realising the benefits to be gained. Land Use Victoria has identified the modernisation of existing digital cadastral data as the first step. The capture and integration of the current survey measurements will provide a two-dimensional (2D) base as a beginning. This will lead to 3D, 4D and nD in the future, as part of the Cadastre 2034 vision for ensuring all rights, responsibilities and restrictions in land are understood.

Currently, this is a priority project for my role. Surveyors and other land development professionals will use the digital cadastre as the basis for planning applications and subsequently lodging digital survey data. To achieve just this goal is at least a three-to four year project and I plan to deliver this in my tenure.

As Surveyor-General I have responsibilities to set and maintain the standards for surveying in Victoria. This includes the training of the next generation of surveyors. These surveyors face different challenges in the future, however the need to have a solid understanding of the principles of surveying remains an important aspect of their training. In partnership with Surveyors Registration Board of Victoria and the Surveying Professional organisations I’m confident that these surveyors of the future will be highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals. A part of this process will be to encourage young girls and woman to consider a career in a profession that has exciting and innovative opportunities in the future.

My role also includes the Registrar of Geographic Names, this is an important aspect of the cadastre. The Victorian public are very passionate about the names used in their community. It is my role to ensure the names are appropriate and meet the Naming Rules in place. This is important in the interest of public safety and to avoid confusion. Duplication of names and similar sounding names cause major challenges for the emergency services authorities, Australia Post and utility service organisations. It is also an inconvenience for the public, reliance on mobile devices for navigation is wide spread and duplicated street names can be a significant inconvenience.

What are the main regulatory challenges you see for the industry in Victoria?

A key challenge for the surveying industry is to meet community expectations. This does not necessarily mean that regulatory change is required, but it does call for some modernisation. For example, Victoria has a target of July 2019 for all land transaction documents to be lodged electronically. It is not hard to imagine that a timetable of electronic lodgement of survey data will also be set. This is critical to the work of modernising the digital cadastre.

I’m sure there are aspects of the regulatory process that could be changed to reflect modern processes or technologies. More investigation is required in the space and it will be subject to the priorities of  government.

Broadly, how do you intend to approach these?

The approach for any changes will be to work collaboratively with the surveying profession and the stakeholders that may be impacted. The focus of my role is to provide leadership and to set and monitor surveying standards. The delivery of services is through the private sector. Therefore, changes will be through consultation with the surveying profession and professional organisations.

As the role of surveyors changes from a focus on measurement to data management, the examination and licensing of surveyors will need to reflect these changes.

Do you expect to encounter resistance to any of these initiatives? If so, why?

There will always be some people who resist change. However, in my interactions with the Victorian surveying profession, I have seen some very progressive and positive practitioners, willing to ensure the growth of our profession. It is understandable that with the average age of a licensed surveyor well into the 50s, some will not wish to change the methods they have employed for many years.

The focus for me is to put in place standards and methods that can be applied to the next generation. Individuals will determine their own approach to any transition. The surveying profession has been fundamental to this country’s development and I expect our profession will continue to rise to the challenges ahead.

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