Understanding the Objective: Psychological Effects in Environmental Decision-Making
Warnock, Ceri Ailsa
A resource consent application for land use might encounter opposition by respondents who claim that the proposed activity will cause them to suffer psychologically. For example, opponents may fear that a proposed activity risks damaging their health and that they will suffer from unacceptable levels of anxiety if the application is consented to, or an activity may offend their moral sensibilities and as a consequence they feel anger and disgust. Psychological effects are a valid resource management concern but the case law on this issue appears inconsistent. This article considers the seeming contradictions in the way that psychological effects are accounted for in resource management decision-making in New Zealand. It posits that contrary to first impressions a dominant assessment approach is apparent, one that successfully manages the difficulties inherent in the ‘problem of other peoples’ minds’ and addresses land use conflicts in a principled, equitable manner. Further, it cautions that the legislature should be wary of attempting to tinker, as it has done latterly, with this common law approach. To do so not only risks corroding the sound principles formulated by the courts but may create inequities between citizens that are incapable of justification. To render the arguments less amorphous, various scenarios are explored and set within the fictional village of ‘Totoimano’.
Publisher: Thomson Reuters
Keywords: Environmental law; New Zealand; Resource management law
Research Type: Journal Article