NZPI Conference – Keynotes

This post discusses the presentations of the key note speakers at the NZPI Conference 2018 in Tauranga along with my highlights or thoughts from these keynote addresses.

Paul Spoonley gave us insight on the demographic future of NZ and the challenge of working out how planning will engage with these future communities. The implications are extensive as it is not only about learning how to best engage with these communities, but it is responding to the societal change which this demographic change will bring.

David Dixon spoke on how our households and communities are changing and the value now placed by many households on an urban rather than suburban environment. Two key points I noted:

  • the impact of PAV/SAV on personal mobility in the future and what this means for planning e.g. the 5 min walking radius vs 5 min car ride. This could be good for removing car parking from our centres but may not help road congestion if it promotes more trips.
  • these new urban households are very empowered – they are triggering change in the location decisions of many businesses so that these businesses can be near these households to attract consumers and employees. I guess it helps to explain why local retail shops seem now to be taken over with services such as food and entertainment – of course we get our products on-line now so only need local shops for service businesses.

Richie Poulton gave us an insightful summary of the Dunedin Study and its findings around the importance of resilience and self-control for success. I really like the question that this poses for planners, as it is not an area we think of as directly relevant to planning. Yet, Dr Poulton has set us a great challenge.

In a new world where artificial intelligence can and will perform so much for us in the future, people will need to bring emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity and human connections to the forefront of our work. At present we don’t plan for environments which give experiences necessary for good emotional development and emotional health. As scientists better understand what makes people tick it will fall to us to ensure that we achieve environments which can provide these qualities. As a mother I know building emotional awareness and resilience in a child is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent. Modern environments can be so unhelpful for a child’s emotional development.

For many of us, the ability to work in this space first means up-skilling our own emotional literacy. This was not as important in earlier generations and this can give us a lack of awareness. It is important that we get ourselves up to date and stay aware of the discoveries of our colleagues in the human sciences. These scientists are making great progress on what makes us tick, thanks in part to such a comprehensive study as the Dunedin Study. Planning was first borne from the challenges of urbanisation on physical health (e.g. infectious disease) and we need to develop a more evolved profession to contribute to the solutions for today’s more nuanced, complex and challenging social issues.

Jacinta Ruru gave us a superb summary of Maori law in NZ with great accompanying slides. Two points that stuck with me were:

  • how we recognise the identity that some resources have under other law and how we can more effectively deal with this issue under the RMA; and
  • the challenges of properly including in our processes the relationship of people with their culturally important resources and management practices.

Jamie Fitzgerald shared some amazing tales with us and is a great story-teller. There were some great inspiring messages in his presentation, but as someone involved in convincing others that they can achieve change, I liked the implied importance of preparation and creating routines in order to achieve overwhelmingly difficult tasks. All of Jamie’s feats seemed backed by meticulous planning and practice (like dragging around tires for a whole year before going to Antarctica). This is a great message for everyone attempting anything. If Jamie can get to the south pole or down a sheer cliff we can certainly get to grips with new tech and work habits sitting in a comfy chair at our desk.

Erin Barnes gave us an engaging presentation on community initiatives with lots of really interesting images of community building in action. It is a real insight into the issues which divide communities and how entrenched these divides can become. My favourite message was about the importance of the community working together regardless of the correct process and/or the longevity of the first project. As long as the community gets together and stays together the initiators can see it as a success, even if the first project isn’t a success in its own right. It is merely a vehicle to the community building. This is a heartening message for those working in this space.

Ian Proudfoot‘s presentation on the future of primary production in New Zealand was very informative. His message on the importance of unlocking the value of our produce was very clear.

He also mentioned that block chain is so much more than bitcoin and will be a key driver of change. Many planners will not know what block chain is capable of so check out this link to find out more. In short, block chain can be the end of many middlemen businesses. The end user can receive and verify reliability with the producer without needing any of the service businesses along the way. A consumer can pay a supplier without the credit card company, bank, wholesalers and retailers in-between. This drastically changes existing patterns in the economy. This dove tails nicely into my recent article in PQ about the internet of things. Transparency around certain resources will be a key issue in the future. Councils can ask more from consent holders in terms of monitoring, and with block chain can hear “directly” from the resource knowing the data is secure and has not been “sanitised” along the way.

I also liked Ian’s insight that the consumer is now at the centre. Too often in planning we don’t think about the end user, we are concerned with managing the effects of establishing activities so deal with the applicant proposing the activity. As Ian so eloquently described, consumers will demand connection and transparency with the foods they consume. A key part of this story may be the environmental effects of producing, processing and transporting that food. Even if consumers don’t directly focus on the environmental effects of production, the public will come to expect a high level of transparency from councils regulating resource management. If you can pinpoint exactly where your vegetables were grown you will not be satisfied with vague answers from your council on say the supply and treatment of the water you will prepare that veg in.

All in all I think the keynote speakers opened our eyes to issues going on both within and outside of the profession which will impact on how we plan. Which is exactly what good keynotes do. Conferences are good times to think about the bigger picture and these speakers certainly gave us some broader issues to consider in our practice. Thanks to the speakers and to the conference organisers for bringing it all together.

I also attended the Emerging Technologies strand in the parallel sessions, so will discuss that strand in another post, see here.



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