Growing up, growing out - A year in the life of a student planner

Madison Winnel PIA (Assoc.), Student Planner, MacroPlan In 2015, I left our comfortable suburban home in the Bush Capital to take on planning in the Harbour City. This year (my emergence from the ‘uni bubble’) has been much more than a crash course in navigating the NSW planning system.

Let us just say it did not take long to realise that the Sydney I knew and loved was in fact only a fraction of what this great city had to offer.

This year has been much more than a crash course in navigating the NSW planning system. It has been a year of discovering public transport and familiarisation with Sydney’s other (equally important) cities further west.

So without hesitation, I picked up my iPhone, downloaded the Opal Travel app, grabbed my headphones, and my life of car dependency was no more.

For Sydneysiders, 2017 has been a labyrinth of road closures and infrastructure upgrades wherever you may be. Ferry and station upgrades, new major roads, pedestrian links, all guided by the Future Transport Strategy 2056.

Even ‘Light Rail: Coming 2018’ greets motorists entering Canberra from Sydney –all signs that we are in the midst of an infrastructure boom.

Due to the general lack of uncertainty surrounding the impact of technology on Australian city building, it is suggested that planning for large scale infrastructure projects should focus no further than 2030.

In 2007 who would have thought mobile phones would play such an important role in transport planning today? And are passenger drones really the future of private transport?

Whilst our need for trunk infrastructure is something we are certain of, technological uptake, which arguably goes hand in hand with future transport planning, isn’t quite so well understood. As such, technological adoption is an ever present challenge for the planning profession, from DA lodgement to sifting strategy documents. Part of the problem is that we are constantly playing catch-up in a profession that is perpetually under resourced. Needless to say, this will be a big issue Australian city planning will face in the coming years.

Although I feel obliged to thank our lack of widespread e-lodgement services for at least allowing me to experience more of Greater Sydney than I otherwise would have. In an industry that promotes sustainability and smart cities (and in a world where we know the weather before getting out of bed), it is strange that the reality of a student planner’s life is the frequent journey to the council customer service desk. I have to ask - surely there is a better way?

As is the mantra ‘people are the centre of planning,’ the success of ‘the better way’ is dependent on people wanting to actively step out of the ‘business as usual’ approach and explore the opportunities for better practice as a result of modern technology. Starting with, but going a little further than the e-lodgement of DA’s.

There is no shortage of planners advocating for disruption, but as I reflect on the steep learning curve this year has been, trading technological support for planning insight from my seniors. I look forward with a general lack of uncertainty about the relationship between technology, data and the success of their implementation and a little more certainty that demographics truly is the real disruptor. Maybe the fact that Millennials will make up half the Australian workforce in 2021 arms us with the ability to take on uncertainty of the future in the pursuit to readily adopt ‘the better way’.

Madison Winnel is a new addition to MacroPlan’s planning team and is currently in his 3rd year of a Bachelor of City Planning degree at UNSW. Since joining MacroPlan in January, Madison has worked on, and assisted with, high level strategic planning, demographic trend analysis and is developing an intricate knowledge of the NSW planning system.

This article originally appeared in New Planner – the journal of the New South Wales planning profession – published by the Planning Institute of Australia. For more information, please visit: