Reflections 2015 Planning Congress (Austraila)

The past few days has been EPIC! I’ve been at my first National Planning Conference & I’m exhausted; physically and mentally! Back to back sessions, consecutive late nights & study tours have made for an incredible experience in Melbourne; apparently Australia’s most liveable city…

As I sit on the plane, I’m thinking about the moments and experiences from this Congress that will remain with me & inspire me when I return to the real world of planning for the City of the Gold Coast.

As expected, the highlight of the week was Mitchell Silver – New York Parks Commissioner. Mitch is inspirational planner who instilled so many take home messages – here are a few;

1. Demographics – planning for the different generations (they all have unique needs and wants) & understanding the population statistics of your City is super important! Gens X,Y and Z collect experiences.

2. Ethics – planning is driven by ethical decisions. It is our role as planners to make judgement calls based on ethics and fairness.

3. Problems of 21st century (climate change, aging infrastructure, household sizes, greying population etc) don’t have solutions yet – by choosing status quo or saying no to change, you are saying yes to current trajectory. Is that what is best for the city?

I also enjoyed hearing from Rob Adams, chief planner at City of Melbourne. Rob delivered the Keeble Lecture in Brisbane last year, & has a real knack of simplifying the outcomes sought for cities.Rob has been in the role for many years and has led the transformation of Melbourne. He said;

1. Great places are great streets. Streets need to work harder & we need to make decisions on what each street will cater for – pedestrians, public transport, traffic, services, dining, art, parking, entertainment. Repurposing of our streets and public spaces to promote more efficient use & increased activity.

2. Land use activity surrounding public spaces and streets needs to encourage lingering & meetings. People are social beings. Active frontages are a must on all streets; if not kiss of death!

3. 7 to 8 storey buildings are perfect scale within a city. Achieve desirable densities and of human scale. Barcelona is most dence city in world – yet predominantly mid rise buildings.

4. Sustainability: Street trees – beautifulication + cooling of city. Stormwater harvesting – trapping, storing & reuse of stormwater within inner city.

Andrew Dixon, Sarah (Urbis), Cheong Koon Hean & Jane Munro were also stand outs. Some key ideas were;

1. Innovation – open space is no longer an add on; it is a land use which essential to urban communities & becomes a differentiator/ competitive advantage of developments. Should not be designed as a tack-on!

2. Learn how to walk in other stakeholder’s shoes. Developers are not the enemy & neither is community. Communication & understanding motivations is key.

3. Leave space for artists. Many many rules are redundant & planners should never say “because that’s how it’s always been done”. Don’t be afraid to test/consider alternatives & experiment.

Overall, the message was to innovate & challenge the norm!

Can’t wait for Brisbane in 2016!

Thanks to Nicole Wills, please follow her blog at https://nicolejwillis.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/reflections-2015-planning-congress/

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