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Geography clarification

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91009: Demonstrate geographic understanding of the sustainable use of an environment

Updated December 2016. This document has been updated to indicate that a single use of an environment is sufficient to meet the requirements of the standard. 

The interaction between people and the environment is the explicit objective of this standard. The term ‘environment’ refers to the region in which the activity occurs. The size of the selected environment needs to be carefully considered and could be determined by the use that is to be studied, for example:

  • Waihi and mining
  • Marlborough Sounds and aquaculture or tourism
  • Waitaki Basin and hydroelectric power generation.

How people use the selected environment

Evidence must relate to the activities and processes that directly use the environment, such as sowing grass to improve pasture quality, or clearing overburden to provide access to the ore. Some processes involved in the activity are unsuitable, e.g. milking, which does not directly use the environment.

The consequences of the selected use on people and the environment

Consequences must relate to people within the selected environment. This includes people directly involved in the ‘use’ and those indirectly affected. The consequences for the environment can discuss the immediate location and the wider area, but must remain within the selected environment.


A critical aspect of this standard is the understanding of the concept of sustainability with a future focus. The depth of the explanation of this aspect strongly influences the quality of student work and their opportunity to reach Merit and Excellence.

This aspect may focus on sustainability of the environment with continued use, or the sustainability of the selected use into the future. In some instances, they may both be interdependent, as with tourism in Fiordland. If the use is related to a non-renewable resource such as mining, the use itself is not sustainable so the focus will be on the sustainability of the environment.


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