NZPI Conference 2021

“No one said it is going to be easy – but if it was, we would not be in the resource management space in the first place.”

During March I was lucky enough to spend three beautiful days in Nelson at the New Zealand Planners Institute Annual Conference.  The theme of this year’s conference was “values, voices, vision”, which explored planning and leadership during these times of critical challenges, such as COVID-19 and climate change, to name but a few.

Day 1 was kicked off with a Powhiri at Whakatū Marae.  The conference drew people from North to South,  so it was extremely humbling to be welcomed to the area by tangata whenua and to form a connection with both people and the land, for the days ahead.  The remainder of the day was spent at the Emerging Planners congress where we learnt about the role and value of urban design, and some of the challenges that Waka Kotahi are facing. For instance, transportation demand, climate change, urban sprawl, and the increase of roading accidents.  Emerging planners were also challenged to think about their future in planning – how to “plan” your planning career so to speak, and to find a mentor to help navigate this dynamic space we work in.

Day 2 went virtual, where we had numerous international speakers join us on the big screen (literally) to explore climate change, placemaking and identity.  Breakout session delved into some of the more practical and tangible ways to take action on some of the challenges we face, and how we can achieve action through participation and strategic direction.

The final day of the conference examined the heart of some the issues we as planning practitioners face now, and the challenges and opportunities for the future.  Exploring local and national direction, and the upcoming RMA reform took centre stage with Hon David Parker discussing the overarching aims of the reform, and what the process will look like.  No one said it is going to be easy – but if it was, we would not be in the resource management space in the first place.  

One of the highlights of the conference for me was the focus on mātauranga Māori, loosely encapsulated as Māori knowledge.  Every single person in the room was challenged to think about how mātauranga Māori ties into our everyday work as resource management practitioners, and to what extent it is captured in our current processes and legislation.  If one thing is for certain – we have a long journey ahead, and every person whether a practitioner or citizen has a responsibility to build understanding and awareness. 

As planning practitioners in the resource management space, we have numerous changes coming in the years ahead.  Most pressing, we are faced with what can only be described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to shape and determine the RMA reform.  While this process will be challenging for many, it also presents numerous opportunities – for growth, learning, understanding, and ultimately better outcomes for people and the environment.  Change can be scary, but what is scarier is a lack of growth and progression in these ever changing times.  Ultimately, the key takeaways for me  – watch this space with a view to engage in every opportunity, choose to challenge existing prejudice, and be open to growth and change for the better.

This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not claim to be comprehensive or to provide advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the article without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter, please contact us.

Contributed by: Jesse Brennan
Published on: 8 April 2021