What are landscapes?

‘Landscape’ is a concept which includes the physical environment and people’s perception and appreciation of that environment. It is not restricted to the purely visual, but may comprise and encompass the ways in which individuals and communities perceive the natural and physical resources, as through traditions, lore, and legends that express the significant and memorable elements of a landscape. 1484  The “sense of a broad expanse is common to the term “landscape””. 1485

The term ‘landscape’ is not defined in the RMA however the Environment Court has suggested the following definition:

Landscape means the natural and physical attributes of land together with air and water which change over time and which is made known by people’s evolving perceptions and associations [such as beliefs, uses, values and relationships] . 1486

The New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects Best Practice Note 1487  identifies three broad categories of landscape attributes:

  • Biophysical elements, patterns and processes;
  • Sensory or perceptual qualities (such as the view of a scenic landscape or the distinctive smell and sound of the coast); and
  • Associative meanings and values including spiritual, cultural or social associations (such as waahi tapu, heritage sites, and popular walking or fishing spots)

Landscape is not a single resource such as soils or vegetation. It is an integrative concept which is applied to a group of resources within a spatial area and which incorporates the human values associated with them. The extent of the spatial area may be defined by biophysical and/or perceptual/associative characteristics, but often relates to ‘catchments’ or locations/ areas/units that share particular landscape attributes.

Although there is considerable overlap between the concepts of natural character and landscape, as set out in Policy 13(2) of the NZCPS, “natural character is not the same as natural features and landscapes or amenity values”. “Natural character” strongly emphasises natural ecological, hydrological and geomorphological processes, whereas “landscape” also takes into account the overall composition, spatial structure and aesthetic values of an area, together with its meanings and associations for different segments of society. This includes the sense of place and identity that communites attach to their local environs.

  1. Outstanding Landscape Protection Soc Inc v Hastings DC [2008] NZRMA 8 (EnvC).

  2. KPF Investments Limited v Marlborough District Council [2014] NZEnvC 152 at [48]

  3. Mainpower NZ Ltd v Hurunui District Council [2011] NZEnvC 384 at [301]

  4. http://www.nzila.co.nz/media/53268/nzila_ldas_v3.pdf

Last updated at 2:46PM on January 8, 2018