News National ‘It’s a bit crook’: Outback towns blast Google Maps errors

‘It’s a bit crook’: Outback towns blast Google Maps errors

Casey Owen says Street View shows the Golden Gate cafe (left) in 2008 instead of her cafe (right). Photos: Google and Damien Larkins
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If you’re driving in parts of outback Queensland, it is probably best not to listen to the authoritative voice on Google Maps, warn the mayors of several regional towns.

The western Queensland mayors and tourism officials are so “disappointed” by the inaccuracy of Google Maps in parts of the region, they are urging locals and tourists alike not to trust the web-based technology.

They are advising tourists to use their common sense instead.

“If you see a signpost saying a town is ‘this way’ and Google Maps is telling you something different, don’t trust Google Maps,” Quilpie Shire Council Mayor Stuart Mackenzie said.

“Go with what’s actually on the ground.”

According to the web mapping service, the south-west town of Eromanga is 85 kilometres to the north of where it really is, while the Street View function is more than a decade out of date in many other towns.

google maps outback
Gareth Davey and travel partner Fiona Donnellan at the Eromanga aerodrome. Photo: Gareth Davey

Map ‘a bit crook’ for two weeks

While flying from Eromanga to Blackall on March 26, retired pilot Gareth Davey was alarmed to discover that Eromanga appeared on Google Maps nowhere near where he knew it was.

“Even though I flew over the town on the way out, on Google Maps I didn’t go over Eromanga, which I thought was quite unusual,” he said.

Mr Davey said he showed the error to the operations manager at the Eromanga Natural History Museum.

“I got onto Corey Richards there at the museum in Eromanga and said, ‘Mate are you seeing the same thing I’m seeing? Is it just my computer?'” he said.

“And he goes, ‘Nah, you’re right, it’s a bit crook’.

“And I said, ‘Well, yeah, that’s a fairly big error for Google to have’.”

Google Maps corrected the error on April 7, almost two weeks after it was reported on March 25.

Councillor Mackenzie said it was not the first time there had been issues with Google Maps in the region.

He said he had been made aware of “bizarre” Google-suggested routes that strayed from major roads.

“Instead of following the main highway, they’ve got the only route going through property roads, if in fact there’s even roads there, taking it off the highway and through the scrub,” he said.

“It’s extraordinary and very scary, actually.”

Street View out of touch

Complaints have also been made over the Google Maps interactive Street View function.

Winton Shire Council tourism and economic development officer Adam Head wants Google to lift its game and update the regional areas.

“They really are dragging the chain, especially in areas like us who are really relying on tourism,” he said.

“The main street here has had a total revamp. It doesn’t even show the new Waltzing Matilda Centre. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been happening around here in town to get the town looking really nice.

“If you’re looking at really old pictures, you might go, ‘Well I don’t really want to go there’.”

Street View shows the Waltzing Matilda Centre (left) months after it burnt down in 2015. Right: The new centre. Photos: Google and Damien Larkins

Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Sean Dillon said the outback’s low population base could explain the lack of interest from Google.

But as Australians hit the road in huge numbers to explore the outback to fill the void of international travel, mapping accuracy has taken on greater importance.

“I can share the sentiments of tourism operators who’ve invested significant money in infrastructure to upgrade and that’s not being accurately reflected, whether that’s on Street View or a rating system,” Cr Dillon said.

“It’s disappointing and the ‘Google Maps and go anywhere’ approach does lead to significant concern with tourists travelling into areas they think [are] safe and normal to travel, and quite often isn’t.

“Do not trust the GPS.”

The ABC has contacted Google for a response.