How do you assess natural character?

There is currently no national guidance on how to undertake an assessment of natural character. A Department of Conservation workshop held in August 2011 developed a working definition of natural character which provides some guidance:

Natural character is the term used to describe the natural elements of all coastal environment. The degree or level of natural character within an environment depends on:

1. The extent to which the natural elements, patterns and processes occur (the matters listed in policy 13(2) are relevant to this matter);
2. The nature and extent of modification to the ecosystems and landscape/seascape;
3. The degree of natural character is highest where there is least modification;
4. The effect of different types of modification upon natural character varies with context and may be perceived differently by different parts of the community.

Natural character assessment is generally undertaken by a team of practitioners with expertise in landscape assessment, coastal geomorphology and hydrology, terrestrial and aquatic ecology and climatology. The first step of natural character assessment is to determine the spatial units to be used. This will depend on whether the assessment is for a regional policy statement or plan, district plan, or resource consent application. The second step involves scoring natural character parameters (e.g. landforms, waterbodies, vegetation, natural systems and processes, structures and settlements, perceptual and experiential) on a continuum (e.g. very low, low, moderate, high, very high). The third step involves determining which units meet the standards of ‘outstanding’ and ‘high’.

Last updated at 2:14PM on February 25, 2015