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RTPI President and Past President visit planners in Brisbane, Australia

26 May 2016

By Richard Summers

RTPI President, Phil Williams, and RTPI Past President, Richard Summers, met fellow planners at three separate events in Brisbane, Australia, in early May. The first event was a presentation on Neighbourhood Planning to Brisbane City Council, the second was an "Aussie and Pommy Planners" networking event and the third event was the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) National Congress.

Phil Williams was on his Presidential visit to Australia before going on to visit planners in New Zealand and Richard Summers was visiting his family in Brisbane after meeting planners in Canberra earlier in his travels.

"Neighbourhood Planning" in Australia

Brisbane City Council is working with local communities in a programme of 29 neighbourhood plans in the inner and outer suburbs of Brisbane. These plans complement the programme of urban renewal projects within a 5 kilometre radius of the city centre within the overall Brisbane Citishape 2031 Plan.

A full house of 80 planners and other professionals from Brisbane City Council gathered to hear a presentation on neighbourhood planning in England and to discuss the many issues that are emerging in practice in both countries. The Australian system of statutory neighbourhood plans has been running since about 2006 while the English system was introduced in 2011.

The presentation outlined the purpose and process of preparing neighbourhood plans in England and touched on some case study examples and user feedback. Richard spoke to the main presentation prepared with John Romanski and Brian Whiteley at the RTPI and Phil contributed some of his own comments and discussion points at the end of each section of the talk. Phil said afterwards:

"It was a privilege to take part in a lively discussion about neighbourhood planning in England and to explore the similarities with best practice in neighbourhood planning in Australia."

The session had been arranged between Matt Rolley, Neighbourhood Planning and Urban Renewal Manager, Sonia Kirby, Acting Principal Neighbourhood Planner and Richard Summers. Phil Williams flew into Brisbane that morning and heroically kept going through his jet lag well into the evening!


 Richard Summers, Sonia Kirby, Phil Williams and Matt Rolley

Aussie and Pommy Planners networking event

That same evening about 25 "Aussie and Pommy Planners" gathered at The Stokehouse bar and restaurant on Brisbane's "South Bank" to exchange banter on the eve of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) National Congress. The lights of the city reflected in the river to create a stunning setting for the meeting.

Sonia Kirby introduced the event and welcomed Phil Williams, RTPI President, to Brisbane, an emerging "world city". Phil said he was delighted to be in Brisbane and was looking forward to meeting everyone socially and then at the Congress. He was pleased to represent the RTPI and particularly its international mission in Australia. The event was also attended by Dy Currie, Past President of PIA and current President of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP).


 Richard Summers, Dy Currie (PIA and CAP) and Phil Williams

 The "Aussie and Pommy Planners" Networking Event was attended by several RTPI members working in Australia including Tony Hall, Past Chairman of the RTPI East of England Region, together with various Australian planners who had worked in the UK or were eagerly hoping to do so. Several young planners asked whether the RTPI could advise overseas planners wanting to work in the UK to complement its recent guidance for British planners wanting to work abroad (this advice is available on the RTPI website). A good time was had by all.

Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) National Congress

Brisbane, Australia, 11 to 13 May 2016

The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) National Congress was held in the prestigious Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on the "South Bank" of the city overlooking the Brisbane River. It was attended by Phil Williams, RTPI President, Richard Summers, RTPI Past President, and the Presidents and Past Presidents of several other planning institutes around the world including New Zealand and the United States.

The 2016 PIA Congress inspired thought leadership for far-sighted planning to accommodate a forecast doubling in Australia's population to 50 million by 2050. It heard that a new Planning Reform Act had just been adopted in Queensland and it pondered calls to make the present regulatory systems for assessing Development Applications more flexible and more consistent across all the States of Australia.

Study tours

The first day of the Congress featured a variety of study tours in and around the city.  They demonstrated that Brisbane is a new "world city", explored the nearby "Gold Coast" as a thriving growth area and show-cased other facets of the South East Queensland (SEQ) Region. There were several parallel events for young planners who met as "YPConnect".

Presidential address

The second day of the congress began with an address by the PIA President, Brendan Nelson. He welcomed Phil Williams, RTPI President, and visiting Presidents from other Planning Institutes. Brendan reiterated the congress themes: "inspire, innovate and implement" and exhorted planners to "be strategic, focus on outcomes and facilitate and celebrate success".

Brendan Nelson went on to announce the work of PIA in Australia's journey from 25 million to 50 million population which was launched at the Parliamentary Friendship Group. The PIA report "Through the Lens" outlines the "megatrends" and challenges of urban growth to promote an informed national debate. It includes an ambitious vision of "prosperous cities, liveable cities and quality of life" as well as careful "management of environmental resources".

The PIA President announced that the new Strategic Plan for PIA had just been adopted by the Board. PIA will become "Australia's trusted voice on planning". It is now introducing a new form of recognition for its members as "registered planners" based on competency rather than qualification (as already adopted by RTPI).


Kirsty Kelly, PIA Chief Executive, closed the 2016 Congress and thanked everyone involved. She said that this year's Congress had inspired planners to build liveable and sustainable cities to accommodate the rapid forecast growth in Australia's population over the next 50 years.