Soil maps

Soil maps have been prepared as part of soil surveys in New Zealand since the early 1900's. Starting off as soil texture 'mark-ups' on NZ Geological Survey maps, they evolved into 'stand-alone' soil maps with texture-based legends in the 1930's. These early maps used topographic features or cadastral parcels as backdrops, until the NZMS1 topo map series at 1-inch-to-a-mile (1:63,360) was released from 1939.

The first national soil map of New Zealand - published in 1948 at a scale of 1:2,000,000 - is the first to feature genetic soil units on its legend. In addition to the 'classic' soil maps, hundreds of thematic maps on a wide variety of aspects – soil erosion, crop suitability, or irrigation management, to name just a few – have been produced by NZ Soil Bureau and the Ministry of Works and Development (MWD) over the decades.

A shift from paper maps to digital maps served through online platforms has taken place during the 1990's. In New Zealand today, all new soil survey information is captured and provided through S-map Online. However, as part of our custodianship work, we are continuing to digitise and make available the large soil map legacy of our organisation.

This page is your key pathway to the soil mapping resources we have available.


Digital soil maps

Explore this section if you are after the most recent soil maps available. S-map Online is the default digital soil map for New Zealand. Other map products such as Soils Map Viewer (FSL) or soil legacy maps can be consulted where S-map coverage is incomplete.

There are several online portals that provide thematic maps: Our Environment Land Atlas provides layers on nitrate leaching estimates, land use capability, or landscape and vegetation features. The Whenua Māori Visualisation Tool is a website intended to help Māori land owners and managers find out more about the physical characteristics, constraints and potential of their whenua Māori.

Visit the LRIS Portal, our repository of authoritative New Zealand science datasets and information, if you need data layers for spatial analyses.

The Pacific Soils Portal (PSP) provides Information and knowledge on Pacific soils, their health and uses. Regions include Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.


Traditional (legacy) maps

As part of our kaitiakitanga / custodianship work we are in the process of indexing and scanning the soil map legacy of Landcare Research and its predecessors. While several hundred soil maps have by now been scanned, very few have in fact been digitised, i.e. their features extracted for geospatial analyses.

It is important to note that legacy soil map information is continuously being integrated into our S-map Online service.

All scans of paper maps are available through our Digital Library, which also has a separate collection for maps that have been indexed but not yet scanned. A convenient way to explore Soil Bureau's reference maps is via our Legacy Map Viewer which features some 275 items produced between 1932 and 1989.