Life honour for Brian

Brian Mitsch has been made a life member of the Institute of Surveyors NSW.

When Brian Mitsch was sent to Deniliquin in 1961 for a position in Brian Esler’s surveying firm, he was only meant to stay for three months.

But before that three months was up, Mr Mitsch had not only fallen in love with the town but also the profession.

And in what is now his 55th year since becoming a registered surveyor, Mr Mitsch has been given one of the highest honours for his industry.

He received notification this week he was being made a life member of the Institution of Surveyors NSW.

The official induction will be held at the institute’s conference in Newcastle in February.

While he joked that the only thing that would change is that he no longer has to pay fees, Mr Mitsch is clearly proud.

And as the institute’s only registered surveyor for the 2710 postcode area, he said he intends to make use of that ‘no fees’ benefit for as long as he can.

“When they sent me an email saying I was being made a life member, I sent one back saying it was totally unexpected, but very welcome,” Mr Mitsch said.

“And I don’t have any intention at the moment of retiring.

“I will keep plugging along, but I may start to slow down a bit soon.”

All registered surveyors must have a membership to the institute, either as an associate or a full member, and must satisfy certain requirements each year to remain a member and remain certified.

Mr Mitsch said it has been a demanding profession from the get go, but one he has enjoyed every step of the way.

He fell in to the profession by accident, after meeting surveyor Brian Esler in his former life as a trainee accountant.

“I went in to that job after getting my leaving certificate at the age of 16, and through my boss’ association with the Hume Building Society I was in charge of going to Brian (Esler) to have him countersign cheques.

“On one of those visits he asked me what I did for work, and his response to me being an accountant was ‘I would rather make my own money than look after someone else’s’.

“It made me think about surveying, and so I went and got myself a job with one.”

After 12 months with one surveyor, dissatisfaction lead Mr Mitsch to seek out Mr Esler.

“He had an office in Deniliquin and had told me one of his articles pupils had taken long service leave, and would I go to Deniliquin for three months.

“I didn’t even know where Deni was then, but when I found out they had Aussie rules I accepted.

“That pupil decided to go into banking instead, and I was given the option of staying in Deniliquin or going back home to Albury.

“By that time I was already playing footy with the Deniliquin Football Club (the pre-cursor to the Deniliquin Rams) and so I decided to stay, and three months has become more than 60 years.”

That association with Mr Esler’s office in Albury continued long after their professional partnership ended, which lead to the formation of the Murray Group of Institute of Surveyors NSW. It includes surveyors from both sides of the NSW-Victorian border.

Mr Mitsch was a founding member of the group, and was its president for a few years.

It took Mr Mitsch six years to become a certified surveyor, after completing university and the Board of Surveyors requirements and exams.

That process now takes about 10 years to complete, and that’s not the only change he’s seen over the years.

“The physical side is no longer what it used to be.

“One of the instruments I used often when I first started was a sharp axe, and I don’t think that’s even part of the kit any more.

“When I started it was hard, physical work. You would be out in the bush, do all your measurements with a steel band and you would have to blaze your way through timbered areas.

“Now, with satellite imagery, you can do it all with less physical requirements.

“It is still a very demanding job, but technology has certainly made it a lot more accessible to everyone. It has meant we have a lot more female registered surveyors now, for example.”

Astronomy also played a large part in early surveying work, with surveyors having to memorise stellar constellations and solar patterns as part of the job.

It lead to Mr Mitsch writing many programs on setting sights to what they call daylight stars.

“We’ve lost a bit of that now because of the satellites,” he said.

Ever changing policies and processes when dealing with planning departments have also presented many changes and challenges for the industry, which Mr Mitsch does not see changing any time soon.

“I was interested, am still interested and still enjoy being a surveyor - although I am not out in the field much any more.

“The job can become a little bureaucratic at times, but I would encourage anyone with a love of the outdoors and who is reasonably good at mathematics and physics to really consider becoming a surveyor.”

Mr Mitsch said anyone interested in the profession should go to to learn more.