Evaluating the Sustainability of Urban Development in New Zealand in Relation to Effects on Water Bodies

By Jonathan Moores, Christopher Batstone, Jennifer Gadd, Malcolm Green, Sharleen Harper, Annette Semadeni-Davies and Richard Storey.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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This paper describes research in New Zealand to develop and test a decision support system (DSS) for evaluating the environmental, economic, social, and cultural sustainability of urban development in relation to effects on receiving water bodies. Throughout the world, cities have been founded next to streams, rivers and harbours, but urban growth has resulted in the degradation of these water bodies. Contaminants discharged in urban storm water runoff impact on water quality and ecosystem health. These environmental changes are of consequence for the ways in which water bodies are used and valued by urban communities. As part of planning sustainable alternatives to historic forms of urban development, local governments in New Zealand’s cities are required to consider the environmental, economic, social and cultural well-being of urban communities. Recognizing this need, this research is developing a DSS which allows the sustainability of urban development to be assessed by predicting and combining indicators of each of the four well-beings. Alternative future urban development scenarios are characterized as changes in land use and storm water management. These attributes drive models which predict changes in water and sediment quality and indicators of ecosystem health in rivers and estuaries, providing a measure of environmental well-being. The environmental indicators are in turn used to evaluate effects on the ways in which people and communities interact with the water bodies, giving assessments of changes to social well-being and the resulting economic benefits arising from a given storm water management scenario. These benefits are combined with the results of a costing model to give an assessment of changes in economic well-being. The development of a pilot DSS has involved assembling and linking these various methods and testing them on a case-study area within Auckland, New Zealand’s largest urban area. Further research aims to extend the pilot DSS to include indicators of cultural well-being.

Keywords: Decision Support System, Urban Development, Four Well-beings, Indicators, Storm water, Water body, Water Quality

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 9, Issue 4, December 2014, pp.31-47. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 691.318KB).

Jonathan Moores

Urban Aquatic Scientist, Urban Aquatic Environments, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

I have a diverse range of expertise including environmental hydrology, water resource management and stormwater research, reflecting a career as both a researcher (now) and resource management practitioner (previously). I am currently leading research to develop a pilot planning tool to evaluate the effects of urban development on environmental, economic, social and cultural values of water bodies. I also lead studies investigating the sources, fate and treatment of contaminants in urban stormwater.

Dr. Christopher Batstone

Cawthron Institute, Nelson, Nelson, New Zealand

Dr. Jennifer Gadd

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Dr. Malcolm Green

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Dr. Sharleen Harper

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Annette Semadeni-Davies

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Richard Storey

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand