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A picture paints a thousand words. In the case of aerial photography, this couldn’t be more accurate

For over eighty years, aerial photography has captured the changing landscape and developing infrastructure across New Zealand. An archive of over 745,000 images tells a captivating story of change and growth to the country’s roads, dams, and forests during the 1950s and 1960s.

WSP Opus specialists in Napier, in partnership with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), are preserving this intriguing photography collection for future generations. Storing and monitoring the film in a climate controlled vault, in line with archive New Zealand standards, and using the latest technologies to digitise the historical archive, is estimated to take approximately ten years to complete.

Today, digital technology allows the landscape to be captured, modelled and analysed quickly and inexpensively. Current photos can be easily compared to a historical product of the same site to visualise and report land changes and uses over time.

What opportunities do these images provide for engineers to advance infrastructure management now and into the future?

Although scanned aerial photos are a great visual, they are unable to be used for measuring distances. This is because of distortions caused by the curvature of the earth, the angle of the camera and the topography of the land especially on rugged terrain. Our experts adjust a geometrically corrected survey to accurately represent the earth’s surface, identical to a map in what is called an Orthophoto.

Orthophotos can be viewed as a layer in Geographic Information System (GIS) software applications where features can be overlaid and referenced. Combining the visual information of a photograph with the detail of map data, allows a user to determine exact locations of features and to measure distances accurately.  This valuable product is particularly useful for large-scale engineering projects and urban planning.

Technology is assisting WSP Opus and LINZ to make this historical reference material readily accessible and easier than ever for you to use today and for future generations. It’s important this resource is available to anyone who may need to utilise it. WSP Opus Photo Sales, Napier take pride in administering the archive and providing the historic aerial surveys in multiple formats considerably more usable than scanned images alone.

To find out more about our work with LINZ go to