Home Business Appointments Narelle Underwood appointed as new NSW Surveyor General

Narelle Underwood appointed as new NSW Surveyor General

NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Secretary, Martin Hoffman, has announced the appointment of Narelle Underwood as the NSW Surveyor General.
NSW Department of Finance has appointed Narelle Underwood as the NSW Surveyor General.

Australia: NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation Secretary, Martin Hoffman, has announced the appointment of Narelle Underwood as the NSW Surveyor General. According to Hoffman, Narelle 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 the NSW’s 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.”

In addition to her considerable personal and professional capabilities, Underwood also has the distinction of being the first female Surveyor General in Australia. Underwood will be NSW’s 25th Surveyor General since Augustus Alt was appointed to the position in 1787 before his arrival with the First Fleet. She will commence her role on 4 October 2016.


  1. Firstly “congratulations” to Narelle Underwood for breaking the “glass ceiling” in the surveying profession. As a registered surveyor and a woman, I very much welcome the appointment of a woman. I am also a graduate of Uni NSW. But, I need to step back from my own gender concerns and look at this through the correct optic. Narelle is 32 years old, graduated from Uni NSW end of 2008, registered in late 2010. So she has less than 6 years’ experience. I see from Linkedin that since registration she spent 9 months as a Registered Surveyor, presumably doing cadastral work before moving into spatial data capture.

    So our new SG has in reality a mere 9 months relevant experience! Who is Dept. Secretary Martin Hoffman fooling when he claims “..Narelle Underwood brings a wealth of experience”.
    Seriously Mr. Hoffman, you have no clue.
    We all know the inside real inside story on this. The sacking of former Surveyor-General Warwick Watkins for corruption back in 2013 created a political problem for the government. Interim Surveyor-General Des Mooney, simply held the fort until Narelle’s appointment. We hear from members of BOSSI quietly saying that government was intent on appointing a woman. But with only one woman applicant, namely Narelle Underwood, it was a pre-determined one horse race. Australia actually has a number of experienced women registered (or licenced) surveyors, many with decades of experience. But Narelle, is an unjustifiable appointment. It just doesn’t stack up to any reality check.
    Sad days for the surveying profession. Sad days for women surveyors.

  2. AJ – it is certainly a sad day for the surveying profession and women surveyors when we have anonymous commenters such as yourself claiming to present a reality check ….but ultimately presenting an attack on high achieving (young) women. Did you even read Narelle’s CV? The reality check is that just the (understated) bare facts of her LinkedIn page show 13 years of experience since commencing as a candidate surveyor in 2003 and 6 of those as a registered surveyor. Additionally – and importantly – those active in the profession will know the significant contributions Narelle has made to ISNSW, BOSSI, SMIC and other professional bodies throughout her career thus far – above and beyond her day-to-day job. How to count these in years of experience? Should a candidate with 13 years of 9-5 (or even 8-6) experience be judged the same as one who regularly assesses BOSSI candidates, has led the Cumberland surveying group for some years and who has routinely attended and contributed to ISNSW meetings and issues?

    For myself – and you can see clearly who I am above – the appointment of Narelle is clear recognition of her achievements to date and of the need for change within the surveying profession. Her appointment looks to the future, and not to preserve the status quo. I cannot comment on how her CV may have compared to others who applied for the job, I can only assume that the ‘experienced women (and men) with decades of experience’ that you refer to, ultimately did not apply for the job.

    On that note, I ask that you and others who may question her appointment instead provide her – and the profession – with your support and ultimately judge her on her performance and actions in this role.

  3. Good points Kate. I take the opportunity to respond.

    Narelle Underwood becomes the regulator as Chair of BOSSI – and one remains anonymous to protect against any potential retribution as a Registered Surveyor. You Kate are not registered, so you are not subject to regulatory scrutiny. I have every right to protect my identity and my livelihood.

    Narelle finished her ungradraduate degree in 2008, and was awarded her degree in 2009. She was registered at the end of 2010. That is what counts so she has now just on 6 years experience as a RS – end of story. That is not the wealth of experience by any stretch, that the Dept Secretary would have us believe.

    The field for SG was very small – and for many of us who are registered – and I see that you Kate are not a registered surveyor – know full well that the whole selection was tainted and that post-Watkins, the role of SG was completely degraded. There were lots of quiet conversation going on between surveyors and with connections to BOSSI members. What was quite clear in those conversations was that only one woman applied and that government was intent on appointing a woman.

    We also know that government wanted someone to toe the line and not become too big for their own shoes. Of course that sentiment arises from the Warwick Watkins experience where he was found by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to have abused his authority, acted corruptly and lied. He was sacked. He was later convicted on 2 of 4 charges and placed on a good behaviour bond. His Order of Australia was cancelled in early 2016 and even RICS removed him of its Fellowship. This is all on the record. Sadly, the NSW profession has allowed him to continue as an Hon Fellow.

    I am sure we all wish Narelle every success in the job, and there will be many watching. She will be kept on a close leash. But does she have a vision?

    Well let’s quote Narelle’s own words, published under her Alumni Profile of UNSW:
    “With technology changing so rapidly, we really don’t know what will be happening in five or ten years, what people will need and how data and information will be used. It’s an open book, which makes this profession extremely exciting.”

    Most of us have good insights as to where things are heading with technology and national initiatives such as those on cadastral reform and the dynamic datum as espoused by ANZLIC and ICSM. Our own views on the future are based on our professional experience, something that Narelle clearly lacks at this point in time as evidenced by both her resume. Of course it should come in time.

  4. Interesting blogs.

    I did my own digging, purely from intrigue. I looked at the alumni profile, the write-up in Spatial Source of 7 September by Mr. Wallace, LinkedIn, the Secretary’s announcement and it doesn’t add up. Impressive credentials but truly light on experience. Checking with my FIG colleagues in Australia, including a few in Sydney and there does seem to be something extraordinary in all of this. What Ms. (?) AJ has written seems to be quite accurate.

    I agree with Kate Fairlie that it is “certainly a sad day for the surveying profession and women surveyors”, but not for the reasons laid out by Kate. Rather it is sad for the reasons set out by AJ. Something truly smells in all of this. A mere six years’ experience since being registered and now being the State’s surveying authority – just doesn’t add up.

    In doing my own research I also discovered that the Department had earlier appointed a new Executive Director of Spatial Services, Bruce Thompson. Surveyor-General Underwood reports to him. Mr. Thompson as it were moved in from Victoria after falling from favor. He had a fairly negative view of surveyors in that State. Perhaps his role in all of this was to advocate for a junior woman that he could control. Now that is a very sad day for all surveyors, including Ms. Underwood.

    I don’t think we even need a conspiracy theory in all of this. Enough said. I did my own due diligence on this matter.

    Again, great blogs, which makes Geospatial World even more interesting reading. Let me end with a teaching from Buddha:

    Do not believe anything
    because it is said by an authority,
    or if it is said to come from angels,
    or from gods,
    or from an inspired source.

    Believe it only if you have explored it
    in your own heart
    and mind and body
    and found it to be true.

    Work out your own path,
    through diligence.

  5. Something is certainly rotten in the State of New South Wales! These comments are just the tip of the iceberg.

    The Australian media (Sydney Morning Herald, The Australia etc.) is reporting the recent bungles of the NSW Titles Office and the very alarming proposed privatization of the Titles Office that is being rushed through against professional advice from lawyers, surveyors, academia, the Public Service Association and the very eminent former Surveyor General Don Grant, AM, etc.

    Des Mooney has been leading all of this fiasco. He is soon to retire with a nice redundancy and then he will join the privatization. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

    Mooney is responsible for appointing the intern Surveyor-General Underwood, whose ambition exceeds her experience at least ten-fold.

    Mooney is responsible for appointing the failed Bruce Thompson from the State of Victoria, who hates surveyors. We all know he is to lead the sacking of some 300 government staff (surveyors, cartographers, and spatial scientists) from the decentralized office at Bathurst.

    Mooney was the 2016 recipient of the Professional of the Year award from the NSW Excellence in Surveying and Spatial Information Awards (EISSI). Is that not like the Rome Fire Department awarding Nero the annual fire prevention award? Or Pro-Life awarding the Abortion Clinic Doctor their annual award?

    What influence does disgraced former Surveyor-General Warwick Watkins yield? He turns up as a Guest of Honour for the farewell function of recently retired NSW Deputy Surveyor-General, Paul Harcombe, specially invited by Mooney. The man was sacked for corruption. He was convicted on two counts by the Court!

    The Department has weak, uninformed leadership that has allowed the appointments of Underwood and Thompson – Secretary Hoffman and Deputy Secretary Hubby.

    If it wasn’t really happening it would be a sick joke. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. It looks very crooked and corrupt to me, so it probably is crooked and corrupt.

  6. These comments are all so insightful. I also appreciate the opportunity that “Geospatial World” provides to comment.

    The mess in my state of New South Wales seems to have gotten out – globally. Thanks to AJ, Mau P. Khin and even misguided Kate Fairlie for raising the matters. So let me express my own views from inside.

    Des Mooney who has presided over the LPI since the ousting of Warwick Watkins has really let all this happen. He seems to have sold out the land titling system, the surveying profession, the Bathurst LPI team, – and for what? He is presiding over the privatization of the Land Titles Office and is directly responsible for the sad (perhaps dubious) appointments of Bruce Thompson from Victoria as Executive Director of Spatial Services and a very inexperienced, Narelle Underwood who is a junior surveyor who was only recently registered, as the State’s Surveyor-General. So Mau. P. Khin, it really does add up – a sellout of the titles system, the profession, the staff of LPI (which includes myself). We hear that Des Mooney will received a big redundancy package soon and then he will join the firm taking on the privatization – conflict of interest it seems.

    Where is the sanity? Where is the leadership? There is now a string of articles during October and November coming out of NSW’s Sydney Morning Herald tabloid on the bungling in the LTO, the high-risk and stupid privatization of the LTO, the expected cuts to Bathurst staff.

    I attended a spatial industry breakfast session in Sydney during October – last month. Thompson and Underwood were presenters. Misguided, self-serving, imposing, rhetoric, high risk are words that come to mind.

    Geospatial information technologies provide great opportunities to innovate. But in the absence of good governance and intelligent decision making by government and competent appointments, it is all at risk.

    To echo the chorus of the commenters – it is a sad day!

  7. Hear Hear!!!!

    Just seen these comments. Spot on.

    Of course Underwood is vastly under-experienced for the position of Surveyor-General.
    Spatial Source’s Anthony Wallace article of Sep 7, 2016, announcing Underwood’s appointment, oversold her very limited experience and discusses her appointment alongside that of historical greats such as Sir Thomas Mitchell. I see Wallace himself, was only two years behind Underwood at UNSW, himself graduating in 2010.


    I see nothing inspiring in the folly of Underwood’s appointment. I see it as an insult to the surveying profession.

    As per the comments by AJ, I too wish to protect my identity against retribution by BOSSI – something Ms. Fairlie knows nothing about.