Navigating trade-offs in land-use planning: integrating human well-being into objective setting

Vanessa M. Adams, Robert L. Pressey, Natalie Stoeckl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


There is an increasing demand for development of natural resources, which can be accompanied by environmental degradation. Planning for multiple land uses requires navigating trade-offs between social, economic, and environmental outcomes arising from different possible futures. To explore these trade-offs, we use the Daly River catchment, in Australia’s Northern Territory, as a case study. The catchment contains areas of priority for both conservation and development. In response to the challenge of navigating the required trade-offs, the Daly River Management Advisory Committee (DRMAC) initiated a land-use plan for the region. Both development and conservation of natural resources in the catchment will affect human well-being and the long-term provisioning of ecosystem services in diverse ways. To understand some of these impacts, an innovative engagement process was designed to elicit the relative importance of key factors to residents’ well-being. The process identified 19 well-being factors grouped into four domains: biodiversity, socio-cultural, recreational, and commercial. Overall, the highest-ranked well-being factors were in the social-cultural and biodiversity domains while commercial values were ranked the least important. Respondents reported low satisfaction with commercial factors as well, noting concerns over environmental impacts from existing developments and sustainability of future developments. We identified differences in the reported importance values for several types of stakeholders, most notably between indigenous respondents and those employed in the agricultural sectors. Indigenous respondents placed greater importance on biodiversity and socio-cultural factors. Agricultural respondents placed greater importance on commercial factors. The outcomes of our engagement were integrated into DRMAC’s process of objective-setting to ensure that objectives for each domain were included in land-use planning. Our results can also anticipate potential conflicts between different stakeholders and changes in well-being associated with different land uses. We describe how our findings will inform the next stages of stakeholder engagement and comment on the utility of such an approach for integrating well-being into objective setting for land-use and scenario planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Number of pages21
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • development
  • human well-being
  • land-use planning
  • objective setting
  • stakeholder engagement
  • systematic conservation planning


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