I have spent half my life working in the system as a planner – beginning life at One Tree Hill Borough Council back in the day when some Councils had resources to innovate on a local level.
I had 2 wonderful planners working with me. Together we wrote the Council’s new district plan and helped the Council make brave decisions that had lasting benefits from Newmarket to the Manukau Harbour. We were lucky to have smart engineering staff who led Auckland in projects such as the chicanes to slow speeds and discourage rat running in the residential streets between Gt South Rd and Cornwall Park .
I went on to work as a consultant in a practice with my structural engineer husband. This allowed us to raise our 2 sons together and build various houses for ourselves and family members in our spare time. It was a rewarding period that led our sons to become a planner and a structural engineer. In the past 5 years I’ve found my planning skills invaluable in the transport planning/ mediating and collaboration fields occupied by Cycle Action as Auckland’s key cycling stakeholder.
I’m grateful for the rich relationships I’ve had throughout my life with engineers. I love their problem solving capability and their willingness to work collaboratively to provide specialist knowledge in various fields where I am a generalist.
It’s the planners that I worry about. Last week I overheard one of the smart guys in Generation Zero, who is about to leave his planning course at Uni for the working world, express dread at the prospect of joining the consent factories established to process resource consents. What also got me thinking was sitting in a meeting with a few planners last week working on a very exciting new cycleway project, and hearing them focus on how the neighbours will view the project. I was struck by the apprehension in their voices – I couldn’t stop myself from proclaiming the fabulous benefits the project would bring in neighbourhood connectivity. I needed to know these would be articulated in the consent process.
I’ve helped teach a Masters planning paper at Auckland Uni – and recall that transport didn’t seem to feature much in the programme. Integrating public transport, walking and cycling barely got a look-in, even though they occupy more and more time in the public life of successful international cities.
I want to be proud of my profession, but I sense planners are lacking the skills and experience to engage with the public in a genuinely collaborative manner. I want them to know we look to them to help shape our cities in an inspirational form – working beside and up-skilling the public. I’m not into education – but wish others who are could ensure planners are trained and instilled with this vision for their future.
In the meantime, while we wait for this paradigm shift, have a read of this. Let’s have some fun with urban guerilla action to start the changes we need in our streets and neighbourhoods.