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New Zealanders’ Landscape Preferences Measured

24 August 2012

New Zealanders’ Landscape Preferences Measured

Geography experts Dr Lars Brabyn from the University of Waikato and Associate Professor Greg Brown from the University of Queensland have completed a study of New Zealanders’ landscape preferences in the Southland and Otago regions.

The survey of over 600 participants was conducted to assess how people valued different landscapes. Data was analysed using the New Zealand Landscape Classification system, recently developed by Dr Brabyn.

“This is by far the largest survey of landscape preferences conducted in New Zealand and was extremely efficient because of the automated data collecting tools used,” says Dr Brabyn.

The results from the study supported previous studies that showed preferences for mountainous, natural landscapes, and natural coastal regions, but the analysis also revealed subtle landscape relationships.

For example, people valued semi natural landscapes that have minor roads, which reflects the importance of having good access. Urban landscapes were also valued, which is likely to be because of the scenic location of places such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and Dunedin.

The survey used a mapping application hosted on the internet called Public Participatory Geographical Information Systems (PPGIS) that collected the locations of the landscapes that people preferred and the values they attached to them.

Dr Brabyn says that landscapes are complex since they involve personal perceptions. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, therefore it is important that assessment techniques, such as used in this survey, capture people’s preferences rather than relying on so called ‘experts’.”

“Landscapes add significantly to the quality of life of New Zealanders and are a multi-billion dollar resource for us because of the international tourism export earnings they attract.”

Dr Brabyn and Associate Professor Brown hope that the New Zealand Landscape Classification system in conjunction with the PPGIS mapping application will be adopted by councils throughout New Zealand, so that a comprehensive understanding of landscape preferences can be obtained and the management of landscape resources is informed.

ENDS

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