Discontinuation of paper maps by Geoscience Australia

March 2, 2020

Geoscience Australia is no longer printing and selling topographic maps in paper form, what does this mean for the future of maps, cartography and our beloved paper map.

SSSI-SICC asked the question at our last monthly meeting “what does the future look like without the Australian Government support the printing of paper maps and making them available to the general public.   

Geoscience Australia  (GA) in looking to find $5M due in budget cuts, decided to stop the presses on printing topographic maps.   1:50 000, 1:100 000, 1:250 000 and 1:1 million scale Australian topographic maps digital copies are available for purchase from GA, enabling printed hardcopy map at short notice, they can also download our maps and take them to a local provider to print at the size and quality to suit their needs

There are still  Map Centres across Australia printing and selling paper maps. I spoke with Dianne Egans from Maps Centre Parramatta in NSW who stated  “We are still selling maps … ”.  Dianne went on to explain her belief the public had been misinformed when it comes to the availability of the printed map since GA had stopped printing them.

Traditionally Topographic maps produced by GA have been used for a wide variety of applications, from recreational uses, such as hiking and holiday planning, to urban planning, surveying, mining and emergency management. 

The need for the paper map is not going away soon, there is an important role for paper to work alongside the modern digital map albeit the need for better orientating with traditional paper maps or a needing to better understanding of the surrounding or emerging environment that a digital GIS Map can provide.

Modern digital mapping solutions provide a far more fit for purpose solution in circumstances where there are multiple layers of information that need to be considered in the decision making process.  If you go back to the printed street directory and compare it with the satellite navigation, google maps and the Uber app of today there is a clear advantage to moving away from the static paper map, however there is still a need in some case to still pull out the street directory for some high level planning or you’re battery just went flat.

Cartography started on a stone, throughout history maps have been produced to present information about the world in a simple, visual way – cartographers are there to make sure that the information presented on the map clearly communicates what the user needs to know. Now that we are tailoring the maps specifically to the use cases they are supporting, cartographers need to be actively engaged in aligning the digital maps to those use cases – not just falling back to general purpose one-size-fits-all representations.

Digital Topographic Data (GA) - http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/national-location-information/topographic-maps-data/digital-topographic-data

By Robert Campbell and David Kelly

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