Quiet as an environmental value: A contrast between two legislative approaches

  • Thorne R
  • Shepherd D
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This paper examines the concept of "quiet" as an "environmental value" in terms of amenity and wellbeing from a legislative context. Critical review of two pieces of environmental legislation from Australia and New Zealand forms the basis of the paper. The Australian legislation is Queensland's Environmental Protection Act, and the New Zealand legislation is that nation's Resource Management Act. Quiet is part of the psychoacoustic continuum between a tranquil and an intrusively noisy sound environment. As such, quiet possesses intrinsic value in terms of overall sound within the environment (soundscape) and to individuals and communities. In both pieces of legislation, guidance, either directly or indirectly, is given to "maximum" sound levels to describe the acoustic environment. Only in Queensland is wellbeing and amenity described as environmental values, while in the New Zealand approach, amenity is identified as the core value to defend, but guidance is not well established. Wellbeing can be related to degrees of quietness and the absence of intrusive noise, the character of sound within an environment ("soundscape"), as well as the overall level of sound. The quality of life experienced by individuals is related to that person's physical and mental health, sense of amenity and wellbeing. These characteristics can be described in terms of subjective and objective measures, though legislation does not always acknowledge the subjective.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Amenity
  • Environmental legislation
  • Environmental values
  • Quiet
  • Soundscape
  • Wellbeing

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  • Robert Thorne

  • Daniel Shepherd

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