Soil data and maps

Soil surveys

Soil surveys have been carried out by Manaaki Whenua and its predecessors since the early 1930s

How to access

S-map Online is the up-to-date soil map of New Zealand.

All NZ Soil Bureau Soil Surveys reports and associated map scans are available from our publications page.

Vectorised (polygon) maps are also being added to the LRIS Portal and can be download from there.


New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Antarctica.


1930s onwards.


Soil survey maps downloaded from the LRIS portal are released under the Manaaki Whenua Data Use Licence.

The sites linked to from this website have their own copyright/licence terms and conditions, and users should familiarise themselves with those terms and conditions.

Particular themes include: irrigation suitability assessment, effluent disposal, drainage works, and urban development. Many of these survey projects underpin coverages that have been harmonized into the S-map framework. Some coverages have, however, been unsuitable for S-map harmonization but remain a valuable resource to understand a region's soil and land resources.

Manaaki Whenua’s collection of legacy soil surveys include a number of published soil maps at a variety of scales. These include a national coverage at four miles to one inch and more generalised national maps at a scale of 1:1 000 000. Many legacy soil surveys were carried out at a scale of one mile to one inch (1:63 360), with some soil surveys carried out at larger scales of 1:31 680 or 1:15 840. After metrification, a number of medium-scale soil surveys were published at 1:50 000 scale. Soil surveys to determine soil suitability for irrigation or for on-land effluent disposal were usually carried out at scales larger than 1:10 000.

The period after the Second World War was the golden age of soil surveys. Surveys were made as a result of requests from local authorities, agricultural groups, and a growing need to understand soils in places where there was little information. There were major investigations in:

  • Gisborne Plains – later used to plan intensive horticulture
  • Rotorua–Taupō region – for planning farms and forestry
  • Fruit-growing and irrigation areas of Central Otago
  • Manawatū sand country

Soil surveying has expanded since the 1980s, from mapping soils to include activities such as modelling the flow of nutrients through the landscape, identifying catchments prone to pollution, disposing of effluent, and sampling of contaminants. Much of these data are loaded into soil databases such as S-map and the National Soils Data Repository (NSDR).