The South West Victoria Landscape Assessment Study (SWLAS) assesses the character and significance of the landscapes of a large part of Victoria, leading to the preparation of planning scheme policy and guidance to ensure their future protection and management. It establishes repeatable and reliable methods to investigate and analyse the land as it is today. This is fundamental landscape planning and provides holistic information to enable future change (what and where) decision making.
An important component of the project was determining landscape types and assessing the landscape character of the countryside. Then, to evaluate the relative significance within Victoria, the landscape architects used a comparative analysis method to establish places of regional and state significance. To determine these most significant landscapes, the study synthesized the landscape units and their views for significance in aesthetic, historic, environmental and social values.
This study was extensive in its investigations, including GIS mapping, fieldwork and desktop research. However, the work differs from an environmental audit because it involves interpretation and perception, rather than just making a record of facts.
Landscape touches everyone’s lives, so planning for a particular landscape should necessarily involve its population. A crucial component in the study was collaboration with the communities, a partnership approach to engagement. The study translated the information into directions and details for landscape protection and management. This was done for each local government jurisdiction with planning scheme controls and a “municipal implementation toolkit.” This study was executed with clarity and thoroughness and the suite of end products provides an easily understood summary of a complex process suitable for a range of audiences, making the work accessible and useable now and in the future. This study provides an exemplary practice template that can (and should) be applied elsewhere to better understand the land, a prerequisite for supporting economic growth and infrastructure investment in the “right” locations. The jury congratulates Planisphere on its achievement.