"Nurturing the Edge, Naturally"

NZ @ The Edge. Resource Management Law Association Conference, Auckland 2000.


Session 7 - concurrent session 1

Wet environment: Coastal & Marine Issues

Di Lucas, landscape planner, Lucas Associates, Christchurch

The concentration and evidence of wild nature in the coastal environment is the basis for the coast’s attraction for recreation, for living and for commerce. All such activities usually reduce the natural character. The natural character of the coast is however required to be preserved as a matter of national importance. Much coastal natural character is already considerably reduced and far from pristine.

Natural character involves the natural science values as well as the natural values people experience in the coastal environment. Natural values are therefore distinguished from naturalistic characteristics that are valued. To preserve natural science values, and protect them from inappropriate change, there is a need to first understand the underlying natural systems that comprise coastal environments. These systems can be described and modelled, and the degree of  existing intactness or compromise analysed for each type of coastal environment.

As well as understanding each type of coastal land or water, special localised values also need to be recognised.  A particular place may have particular and important natural or landscape attributes. Thus the attributes of both a type of coastal environment and of a particular coastal environment are addressed.

There is some potential for mitigating and remedying past compromise in preserving particular coastal environments. The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement recognises a role for restoration of natural characteristics. Analysis of the existing, past or potential natural character of the coastal environment is thus a key task in resource management. Addressing the vulnerability of existing natural character, a Limits to Acceptable Change approach is considered. As well as allowing for appropriate change to natural heritage, recognition of cultural heritage is relevant.

Coastal areas may comprise important landscapes. As the landscape resource is not considered confined to the visible, the adequacy of  visual and landscape assessment techniques is addressed. Rather than merely using expert assessment, shared values can be identified. Locally “typical” and perhaps seemingly unimportant character, may, when considered in the bigger picture, have important natural or landscape attributes. Alternatively, what locals value highly may be typical or of little significance at the wider scale.

An assessment approach focusing on sustaining natural systems or particular natural science dimensions may or may not be compatible with sustaining landscape and visual values. Thus it is considered important to distinguish the analysis of natural systems from analysis of the experience of nature. 

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