Stephenson Percy Smith

Stephenson Percy Smith (right), seen here with Elsdon Best, grew up on a family farm in Taranaki, trained as a survey cadet and worked as a professional surveyor throughout much of the northern half of the North Island. During a long career in the civil service, he became chief surveyor and commissioner of Crown lands in the Auckland district, and from 1889 until his retirement in 1900, he was surveyor-general and secretary of lands and mines. He acquired an extensive knowledge of plants, animals and landscapes and developed a strong interest in Maori history and culture through surveying and private excursions in the countryside. Following his retirement, he became recognised as a Polynesian scholar of note although his reputation in this area has come under considerable scrutiny since his death, and many of his conclusions have now been rejected. He served on numerous local and national bodies involved with surveying, land and native reserves. He was chairman of the Scenery Preservation Commission and undoubtedly influenced the commission's interests in acquisition of Maori pa sites for reservation.

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