The nature of natural: defining natural character for the New Zealand context
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New Zealand has a long-standing statutory policy goal to preserve the natural character of the coastal environmentand various freshwater environments and their margins. In the absence of an authoritative definition, it has not been possibleto develop a method to measure natural character and its change, nor the outcomes of the long-standing national policy goal.Here we develop a definition of natural character that is relevant and useful in the New Zealand environmental, cultural andlegal/policy context. Literature-derived interpretations of natural character and equivalent concepts are evaluated as to theirpotential suitability for developing a biophysical definition of natural character. Using a set of carefully designed criteria asubset of interpretations are condensed into a definition of natural character. The application of this definition is qualifiedfollowing consideration of the literature addressing human perception and experiences of natural character. Appropriatereference conditions and baselines for evaluating natural character in different contexts are discussed.
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