In 1988 Transpower commimissioned an assessment of a proposed transmission line through South Canterbury downlands. Knowing this complex country in terms of natural character and cultural associations, Di utilised her assessment methods research. At that time developing land typing as a method, she demonstrated varying underlying natural landscape character at various scales. With ancient rock drawings through this limestone landscape, she researched their values, and had Ines, who had been learning te reo following her arrival in NZ, meet with kaumatua at the Arowhenua Marae to discuss the route.
Subsequent cultural layering was also recognised. The dense cultural and natural nuances of the downlands landscape were encouraged to be respected in the route placement.
The transmission line was approved through Town & Country Planning Act processes and commissioned in 1991. The elegant towers and cables looping respectfully across the landscape were valued as symbols of progress. A broad scale design, the transmission line is a demonstration of sustainable energy conveyed from southern hydro development up toward the urban population.
The project demonstrates emerging methods that have become widely accepted some three decades later, and that led to the Canterbury Regional Landscape Study (1993) methods which underpin much current best practice.
Lucas Associates and Lucas Associates (Geraldine) Transmission Line project is nominated by Clive Anstey for an Enduring Award 2022 as a particular demonstration of Mana, Whakapapa, Tohu, Taiao, Matauranga, Hapai and Kaitiakitanga. It shows Endurance, Sense of Place, Performance, Value, Environmental Stewardship, and, has been Significant and Influential."
Through care and thoughtful siting, the transmission line has been artfully and expertly woven through the downlands landscape, inland from Timaru. Enduring landscapes are often those which withstand the test of time and changing trends. Di Lucas’ work, which included consultation with Te Runanga o Arowhenua on the 220kv line, is an exception. It is in the absence of form that the value of the landscape itself has been able to endure. It is a strong example of the creativity with which landscape analysis and assessment can influence large scale infrastructure projects by identifying and guiding opportunities to protect and sustain landscape values and character landscape.
The project came before GIS mapping, visualisation software or even word processing and includes hand drawings and photographs showing patterns in the landscape, and potential impacts of pylons. The result demonstrates a deep understanding of the landscape and the significance to tangata whenua, following discussions with kaumātua at Arowhenua marae. The benefits of avoiding ridgelines and views of Aoraki Mount Cook help integrate large power pylons and transmission lines within the landscape, effectively hiding them from view. The influence of landscape architecture during the design and approval (notified application, with submitters in opposition) has been critical to this project’s success. While land use in the area has changed since the time of the assessment, the results of the analysis and recommendations continue to speak volumes. This methodology has had considerable influence on the evolution of landscape assessment and project analysis under the resource management system in Aotearoa New Zealand.