Ruminations of an emerging planner

— as inspired by the Tasmanian State Planning Conference

Bun Fu Yu 20.9.17 (T0733694xD3FB5)

Bun Fu Yu, Master of Planning, University of Tasmania

I was motivated to write this reflection after an eight-week student placement with a planning and engineering firm where, for the first time, it really sunk in to me as to what the profession of planning is all about. Yes, planning is about planning schemes, rights of appeal, and legal detail. But it is so much more than that. Planning is about an appreciation of where the proposal sits in the grand scheme of things, within the built environment.

These lessons were reinforced with a key message I took away from the recent Tasmanian State Planning Conference: planners should act as facilitators and not policy micro-managers. The role of a planner is a blend of technical knowledge and process expertise. It is about planning for people. It is about the integration of environmental, economic, and social elements.

The role of planning is blended within a wide spectrum of issues. From characteristics of buildings, to the proximity of wind turbines with native birdlife; the effect of watercourse flow rates on nearby dwellings, to the effect of human settlement on traffic congestion patterns. These are only a handful of examples of how planning is integrated within developmental stages, and how it facilitates change within our built environment.

As a planner, your knowledge needs to extend beyond planning schemes and acts. It involves skillsets like interpreting spatial data, valuing inputs from experts of various disciplines, and adopting an innovative approach of problem solving. These abilities are not within the commonly perceived job description of a planner.

Planning in the university classroom is about familiarising yourself with the frameworks of planning schemes, the integration of national legislation in applications, and the timeframes that you are bound by. Dry, as some will say, but it embeds a logical and rational way of thinking that is critical for facilitating the decisions about, say, the next tall building in town. As a planner, you may not follow a project through to completion—but you were a part of the process of translating policy to what is delivered on the ground.

Through my university placement work-integrated learning, I was able to first-hand witness how planners go about negotiating the different interests, rules, and values. I was fortunate to be exposed to an extensive array of planning projects, and I soon realised how planning facilitates change, and how planners logically think their way through towards solutions. It allowed me to acknowledge the broad context in which planning matters may appear in, and provided me with a cherished opportunity to reinforce the foundations taught in the classroom with tasks in the workforce. I was given a chance to ‘see it for myself’, with the time pressures a professional would face.

For young and emerging planners, it is important to value the opportunities we are given. For better or worse, Tasmania is undergoing revolutionary changes to its planning scheme structure. Whatever the opinion, emerging planners should focus on how these debates are shaping our future, and appreciate and learn from the diverse perspectives that accompany such an evolution.

Joining Planning Institute of Australia at the beginning of my planning degree was one of the wisest decisions I have made in my education endeavours. It opened up many opportunities to network with other planning professionals, from those in the early stages of their career to those with a vast amount of experience. It encouraged much-needed exposure to new approaches and ideas.

As I reflect on the experiences which have been a part of my journey so far, I acknowledge the people I have met—particularly those who have mentored and supported me directly—and the opportunities which I have been exposed to. If the beginning of my transition from science to planning is anything to go by, the future promises to be a very enriching experience. As one door closes, another opens, and I await with anticipation the opportunities which will hopefully surface, as I transition from a student to an emerging planner in the near future.

By:  Bunfu Yu


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