In the mid 1950s the Hunter Valley was described as one of Australia’s most important and diverse food bowls.
"The [Upper Hunter Regional Development Committee] is of the opinion that the dairying industry in this region is capable of very great expansion if the land suitable for dairying is put to its proper use," a 1954 report about the region’s economic prosperity said.
Recently surfaced aerial images of the valley, in particular the area between Singleton and Muswellbrook, taken between the 1930s and 1970s confirm a countryside that supported dozens of dairy and cattle farms.
An image of the same area today shows a landscape gouged with massive open cut mining projects.
The University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections team is presently piecing together the recently acquired government images in Google Earth.
“The individual photographs were not labelled with the landmarks visible in the image, such as rivers and towns. The photographs are only labelled with the name of the region that was covered by the flight path, also known as ‘runs’,” Cultural Collections archivist Gionni DiGravio said.
“As the flights do multiple runs back and forth to cover the area, every second row of photographs is upside down.”
Despite the large overlap between photographs that were taken in succession as the plane traversed the landscape, the images still do not fit easily together.
“This problem was overcome by using Adobe Photoshop, which is able to recognize the matching areas of two overlayed photos and merge them together,” Mr DiGravio said.
In a prophetic note, the 1954 report raised concerns about the environmental effects of inappropriate land clearing.
"The removal of timber from much of the region, of which notable examples can be found in the Singleton, Denman, Muswellbrook and Murrurundi districts, has sometimes been unwise,” the report said.
Camberwell resident and environmental campaigner Deidre Olofsson said she was pleased the changes to the landscape were being documented.