Roads and residents : measurement and mitigation of psychological stress : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Environmental and Resource Planning at Massey University
Psychological stress, suffered by property owners who are forced to relinquish land for roading development, is difficult to quantify. However, psychological stress can have a significant adverse impact on affected home and business owners. Currently, evaluations of roading projects only include a cursory assessment of psychological stress in the planning balance sheet. The aim of this thesis was to measure psychological stress suffered as a result of the imposition of roading designations and forced property purchases. The main research objectives were to examine whether it was possible to directly quantify the level of psychological stress suffered, and to identify mitigating factors that would reduce the impact of psychological stress. Forty-four residential and business property owners affected by four roading projects in Hastings and Christchurch completed a questionnaire and face-to-face interview on their personal experience of stress as a result of the roading development. A possible method of measuring stress symptoms and the impact of life changes was tested, based on the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Almost all interviewees acknowledged that they had experienced some degree of stress because of the roading development. However, results of the stress symptoms and life impact surveys varied and appeared to be more dependent on the individual's circumstances than on the impact of the roading project. Eighty-five percent of interviewees believed that communication between roading authorities and property owners could be improved. It appears that stress can be significantly mitigated by providing affected owners with more direct contact with roading representatives and regular information updates on the development's progress. The issue of compensation also requires addressing in order to reduce the amount of stress suffered. Currently property owners receive the market value for any land and improvements lost but no other compensation is provided. All interviewees believed that they were financially worse off regardless of whether they were losing all or part of their property. However, where an independent negotiator had been employed to finalise the property purchases, interviewees were more positive and acknowledged that this had helped achieve a win-win solution and a reduction in the level of stress they had suffered.