Certification of Plans

31 March 2017

The Board has recently dealt with a number of matters where the accuracy of the certification on survey plans came into question. A key element of the responsibility that is entrusted to registered cadastral surveyors is the assurance/verification that the survey meets the legislative requirements, including regulations and standards. It is of extreme concern to the Board that surveyors may not be taking due cognisance of the standards prior to undertaking the survey and/or not understanding their responsibility.

The following issues have been identified.

1. The plan as a representation of the survey

The survey plan must accurately represent the survey. Measurements presented on plans must be from the subject survey, and not carried forward from previous surveys. For example, in a staged development, measurements to reference marks or connections to datum from a previous stage should not be represented as surveyed on the current stage unless they have been remeasured on the subject survey.

Where measurements are brought forward from a previous survey, they should be clearly identified as such on the plan, with the source of the information clearly identified. Surveyors are reminded that they are responsible for the accuracy of information compiled from previous surveys (see s16(3) of the Survey and Mapping Infrastructure Regulation 2014).

The practice that is of concern to the Board appears to be particularly prevalent for showing connections to datum. The new requirements for connection to datum on surveys of 10 lots or more can be achieved for nominal cost when using services such as AUSPOS. Therefore, there does not appear to be a justification for compiling connections to circumvent this requirement.

The objective of the connection to datum is to position the survey with a Positional Uncertainty of less than 50mm. If a surveyor considers that this objective can be achieved without further connections to datum, the opportunity exists to seek an exemption from the requirement. (See below regarding exemptions)

2. Measurement accuracy

The creation of legal interests in land relies on the accuracy of boundaries that are created or modified. It is not acceptable for a surveyor to unilaterally decide whether a boundary is measured accurately enough or not. From time to time, situations arise where surveyors decide to use techniques that are not capable of achieving the required accuracy. If this is the case, it is not acceptable to falsely certify the accuracy of the plan when it is not in compliance with the requirements. False certification of a plan is an offence under s84 of the Surveyors Act 2003, and carries a maximum penalty of over $5000.

The Survey and Mapping Infrastructure Act 2003 recognises the practical considerations of surveys by providing for exemptions from the standards. Sections 18 to 20 set out the process by which surveyors who consider it is not practical to comply with a standard on a survey can request an exemption from complying with the standard, for that survey.

The request should be made prior to the commencement of the survey and must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be in writing;
  • It must identify the requirement from which an exemption is being sought; and
  • It must explain “as briefly as possible” why it is considered impractical to comply with the requirement.

Requests should be submitted to the relevant principal surveyor in the Department of Natural Resources and Mines who will make a recommendation to the chief executive or delegate.

Surveyors are reminded that the accuracy standards that exist have developed over time as an expression of the community’s requirements for certainty in the location of boundaries. It is not appropriate to adopt techniques that do not achieve the standards simply for the convenience of the surveyor. However, if surveyors consider that the standards are not appropriate to achieve community requirements (either too lax or too onerous) it is open to surveyors to make a submission to the chief executive (via the DNRM principal surveyor) for the standard to be reviewed.