John Trinder graduated a Bachelor of Surveying from University of NSW (UNSW) in 1963, and MSc from ITC in The Netherlands in 1965 and PhD from UNSW in 1971. He was employed at UNSW from 1965-1999, progressing to the position of Professor in 1991 and was Head of the School at UNSW from 1990-1999. He currently holds the position of Visiting Emeritus Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW and was elected Honorary Fellow of UNSW in 2013. John has undertaken teaching and research at UNSW for about 50 years, specialising in Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and has published about 180 scientific papers in journals and conference proceedings and received awards with the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing for research papers published in Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. He continues to teach and advise postgraduate students at UNSW. He was Secretary General (1996-2000) and President (2000-2004) in the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) and is currently an Honorary Member. John was President of the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute in Australia from 2013 to 2015.
Even though you are living in Australia, you had graduated in Europe. What do you know about Bulgaria? Do you know Bulgarian geodesists? Do you have any impressions of their work? Have you ever been in Bulgaria? What is heard on the opposite side of the Earth for Bulgaria (the dark side of the Earth, if we use that metaphor of Pink Floyd – Bulgaria is just the opposite of Australia if you have the Globe in your hands )? How Bulgaria is known in Australia (if is it known)?
I live in Australia, and graduated from both UNSW in Australia and ITC in The Netherlands. I have visited Bulgaria twice, for about 1 week in 2003 and this year to attend the FIG Working Week. I did sightseeing in 2003 with the kind assistance of Ivan Katzarsky and I spoke to the local society members and visited the local company GIS Sofia. In 2015 at FIG Working Week, I heard some details of the activities of Bulgarian geodesists. I have occasionally been in contact with some of the employees of GIS Sofia and their activities, but I do not know a lot about the work of geodesists outside these activities. Bulgaria is not mentioned a lot in Australia (also called ‘down under’) but it is certainly known. It does not seem to be an important location for tourism, although it is an inexpensive and interesting place to visit.
There is a general belief that Bulgarian geodesits are very well prepared in theory. Our education at university is good and respected even in Western Europe. Everyone recognize the problem in our country that our education is not directed much to practice. As a university professor what do you think should contain the perfect curriculum of geomatics?
I understand that the education system in Bulgaria is good, although I have not experienced it directly. I do know that geodesists from Bulgaria find employment in Western Europe. Regarding the lack of emphasis on development of practical skills in university courses I think a university education should provide the fundamentals for a career of about 40 years. Graduates need to be adaptable to change, which is becoming more rapid over time. While it would be ideal to educate university graduates with practical skills so they were work ready on day 1, there is inadequate time in university courses to do this. Hence some of the practical training must be done once they enter the profession. This is the case in Australia for surveyors, but also many other professions, such as lawyers, engineers and accountants. The perfect curriculum would include the current theoretical work, computing and more practical work than is undertaken today, but that is not possible given the limitation of 4 years to educate a surveyor in Australia.
In Bulgaria our surveyors despite serious educational background often do not work in the field of geodesy. Many surveyors don’t practice their profession and are forced to change their profession. The reason for the difficult situation in Bulgaria is the lack of a sustainable national policy for the development of geodesy and cadastre. This area is influenced by the interim decisions of politicians. What is the situation in Australia? Is there a state policy for cadastre?
There is currently a significant shortage of graduates in surveying in the eastern states of Australia and this shortage has been projected to cause problems for the future for developments of infrastructure and housing. This shortage has been the result of insufficient number of school leavers entering universities to undertake a career in surveying. This has placed pressure on Universities to maintain viable surveying programs and it has led to the closure of at least one department in Australia.
The cadastre has been fully developed in Australia since about the 1870s. This was because of the influence of the developer of the Torrens land titling system, Robert Torrens from Adelaide, South Australia. The system was first developed in South Australia in about 1860 but was quickly adopted around Australia and New Zealand and therefore effectively covers the whole of Australia. The land titling system is controlled by the governments in each of the 6 States and 2 territories in Australia and for this reason all surveyors who practise in land property surveys must be legally registered by the respective states or territories.
Do you know what percentage of your country is covered with a cadastre?
What are the investments that the government is doing in the field of geodesy and cadastre in Australia?
I cannot provide figures but the state and territory governments maintain the cadastre through their well-established land related departments with, in most cases, hundreds of permanent employees. There is no question that this financial support for the maintenance of the cadastre will continue. The systems are continually being upgraded to digital records and submission of digital plans.
What is the average salary of a surveyor in Australia?
I cannot provide an accurate figure since salaries vary according to whether surveyors work in government departments of in the private sector. My estimate is about $US70,000.
You told in COORDINATES that surveying companies in Australia are recruiting professionals from New Zealand and other countries under special visa arrangements introduced by the Australian government to allow skilled migrants to enter Australia. Could Bulgarian surveyors work in Australia? Do they have visa facilitation?
It depends on what field of surveying. The main problem in gaining a position in cadastral surveying in Australia would be their ability to undertake surveys for definition of boundaries. Special qualifications are required to undertake such surveys. If the positions are in other fields of surveying then it should be possible to gain employment, but I am not aware of how many vacancies there are. In the past few years there have been positions available in the mining industry, but a lot of that work has now dried up because of the slowdown in the mining industry.
You’ve held a number of executive positions in the Council of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS). What future for photogrammetry?
The field of photogrammetry will continue but the mapping industry will be smaller than in the past due to automation. Images are becoming more readily available given the number of satellites that will be launched in the future. The capturing of information from images will continue as an essential within the broad field of surveying. We are still finding new applications of measurements from photographs. Therefore I am confident that it will continue as a field.
What will be the role of drones in the future? What are the ethic questions of use of UAV?
The applications of drones will continue to grow. They will become larger and carry larger payloads. I believe that they will take over the role of manned aircraft in the not-too-distant future when larger drones will be developed and licensed.
Let me ask you again: What is the role of the surveyor today? Is the shine of surveying waning?
Surveyors are essential for many operations requiring the determination of location. The field will continue perhaps with a smaller cohort as operations become more automated. The reason why it is difficult to attract school leavers into courses is that there are so many other career options these days. In comparison to the situation of 30 to 40 years ago, the attractiveness of the field has probably waned, but the interesting and diverse opportunities available for a surveyor are even greater than in the past. We need to demonstrate that it is a fascinating career for those with skills in mathematics and want a variety of activities in providing, managing and manipulating spatial information in their career.
What qualities should possess a surveyor, working in the 21st century? Are these qualities the same in Europe and in distant Australia?
A person wishing to be a surveyor in the 21st century needs capabilities in mathematics, be capable of understanding and managing spatial data and be adaptable to change in technologies and methods. The person also should have personnel management skills for the supervision of other professionals in his/her field.
Do you think that surveyors speak the same language?
Yes, primarily they do, since the fields do not vary a lot around the world. While some techniques may vary in detail, the main approaches are the same.
What do you hope is the future of the profession?
I think it is still good. While fewer professionals will be needed in the future because of the level of automation, surveyors undertake essential tasks and therefore their skills will always be needed. New and denser spatial data will be required in the future. They will need to be adaptable to changing technologies and grasp the opportunities as they arise.