The purpose of this guidance note is to assist Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) practitioners understand the key principles and issues relating to the sustainable management of landscapes. It also identifies the range of potential approaches to dealing with landscape issues - in regional policy statements, regional and district plans and in resource consent applications.

At a general level there is some consensus on the meaning of landscape and the value of landscape assessment methodologies and management tools. However, different approaches and techniques are used in relation to landscape issues in the pursuit of sustainable management. This, in part, reflects both the diverse nature of landscapes and the subjective nature of landscape assessment.

Not only are landscapes important to us (as individuals and as a nation) they are also constantly undergoing change. Sometimes the change is rapid, such as, the impact of natural disasters and changes in land-use such as conversions from farming to vineyards. At other times change is very slow, almost imperceptible such as the colonisation and regeneration of native vegetation or the spread of gorse on land retired from farming. Many of the effects on landscape occur from interrelated drivers of change – including agriculture, forestry, housing, transport and energy requirements among others. Consequently, landscape assessment needs to recognise landscape as a four-dimensional concept in space and time within a given environment.

This guidance note emphasises that a transparent methodology, community engagement, and understanding the drivers of change are key principles that can increase both the understanding and acceptance of landscape assessment findings. Ultimately, this guidance note encourages an adaptive, integrated approach to managing the competing uses of our landscapes in a sustainable manner.