Conflict in the Landscape: A Case Study of the Cultural Values Model

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Janet Stephenson


In some senses, landscapes are our heritage. They are touchstones of identity, defining who we are as a nation, as iwi and hapu and as communities. However, landscapes have become a battlefield as they are subjected to rapid and widespread change. Reaction to these changes is being vocalised in the streets, the media, in courtrooms and at a variety of recent conferences in New Zealand. A fundamental cause of the conflict is that formal methods of attributing significance to landscape, particularly as codified in legislation, have not kept abreast of emerging recognition of its rich and complex meanings. Additionally, decision-making processes relating to new developments tend to rely on expert assessments, largely overlooking the distinctive cultural heritage that arises from the close interactions between people and their landscapes. To achieve better management of the multiple interests in landscape, it is necessary to move beyond 'silo' thinking and to be inclusive of values that currently fall outside of standardised assessment methods. Using the Cultural Values Model, this article suggests that conflict arises because of the lack of recognition of the range of values that may be implicit in any particular landscape. The model suggests that landscapes can be understood in an integrated way through consideration of forms, relationships and practices; the dynamic interactions between these; and the dimension of time. Aspects of landscape that are considered to be 'valuable' by experts or communities may arise from all or any of these components. Conflict in the landscape arises where certain components are ignored or given primacy over others. While conflict cannot be entirely avoided, the model offers a more integrated understanding of landscape values as a whole and thus the ability to anticipate where and why conflicts may arise.

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Author Biography

Janet Stephenson, University of Otago

Dr Janet Stephenson developed the Cultural Values Model in her PhD thesis: Values in Space and Time (Otago University 2005). Prior to this she worked as a planner in Northland and Otago, New Zealand, with a particular interest in Maori issues and the management of cultural heritage. She currently lectures in planning in the Geography Department at Otago University.


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