Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Planning in Australia

John Smith from ARC worked on Australia before coming to NZ 5 years ago. What key differences between the NZ and Australia planning systems and processes were identified during the session?


  1. Thanks to John for that presentation and his generous offer for advice.

    John mentioned that the local government level does not have a constitutional role in Australian cities. Seems rather similar to the creature of statute that is the Local Government of New Zealand. I figured that this is something reasonably similar, and something that i found quite interesting. Seems like there is not a lot of favour in the local governing bodies.

    The housing funding tied to housing plans that the national government used to "encourage" the states to prepare plans for housing was quite commincal i thought. Money makes the world go round as some would say.

  2. cameron wallace (4335502)October 14, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Overall I found that session quite interesting as had no idea about Australia's planning "systems".

    I guess the key difference between Australia and New Zealand was the States overall control of planning, with the commonwealth providing a very limited periphery role. As you can see in New Zealand, national amendments to the RMA represent a major control over planning in New Zealand by central government. Australia's system seems to give a lot more power to a regional level (although the states are massive) which would allow for the different states to create outcomes suited to their own particular opportunities and constraints. I also liked John's brief discussion on corruption, after the Taito Field case I think those in a position in power will be taking a much more cautious approach when it comes to their dealings with developers.

    Ka Kite Ano

  3. David Badham 4693262October 14, 2009 at 10:44 AM

    I found it interesting how John highlighted how political planning processes are in Australia. Compared to NZ, the influence of politicians in planning decisions seems extreme. I can only imagine the frustration that planners would feel from being pressured by politiicans/ministers to make decisions that meet their interests. The level of corruption in the NSW planning system was also a shock to the system (The Wollongong scandal seems like something out of a bad Hollywood movie!).
    The state seems to have the supreme power in most decision making processes. At the National level, it seems that the Commonwealth government is far less invovled than the New Zealand government. With six states and two territories I feel that this state based system almost certainly leads to a piecamal approach to planning across the whole of Australia.

  4. I thought that John's presentation was fascinating. The way he highlighted that planners in australia needed resilience and a "thick skin" was evident in the way he described Australian planning processes as being highly politicised. I agree with earlier posters about the New Zealand planning system having more of a central governmental control while the Australian one has a much different approach due to the way the country was formed. Considering that the states and territories hold most of the power over their own areas and Central Government is "allowed to exist" by them rather than constitutionally, as is the same with The Local Government it set the scene for a far more complex and difficult planning system with a much more piecemeal and "opportunistic" approach by planners.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. @Ben Liew: John also explained how many of the functions that local authorities carry out in Australia don't have a basis in legislation. I found this quite interesting when compared with NZ's system, where all functions and powers of our local government is prescribed in statute right down to the detail of the process that should be followed. It seems their local government has a far greater determination in exactly what they do. I guess thats why its more politicised than over here.
    The huge amount of local auhtorities in Australia seemed not dissimilar to NZ pre-local govt reform in the late 80's.
    Knowledge of the Aus planning systems will be useful when I skip this country to avoid my student loan

  7. Due to the size of the Australian continent and the relative spatial dispersion of the populations/urban areas, it is makes sense for planning to be devolved largely from the state government. New Zealand is much smaller in comparison in both population and land mass, and it is easier to feel 'connected' to the national government and its policies and legislation. I'm from Perth in Western Australia which is the most isolated city in the world. It feels like it is in a different country to the eastern cities as there is little graduation of cities between the east and west coasts (like in the USA). Therefore, the individual state has a much tighter grip on what is necessary for its territory and population as opposed to the federal government. However, this leads to a slightly 'messy' planning system and can allow for corruption in the mid to low levels of officers.

  8. Local government in Australia seems to play a much smaller role compared to New Zealand. It is not part of the constitution whereas local government in New Zealand is created through the LGA. Due to the size of the country, it makes sense that environmental planning and education are at the state level rather than the national level. Land use planning is governed at the local level, similar to NZ where the implementation of the RMA is.

    Each state has their own planning policies and legislation which I think makes sense due to the sheer size of Australia. However, I think central government should play a greater role in environmental planning as the environment is interconnected.

    What I found interesting in John's presentation was the way Sydney is portrayed. It is an international city but is often closer to cities in the Asia-Pacific Region than Australia itself. Moreover, the inner city of Sydney is often the one that the world is exposed to, and tourists often only experience that part when visiting. The wealth, jobs and resources appear to be concentrated around the inner city, much like how Auckland City has the most natural and physical resources and employment.

  9. Australian planning communities take a bow. The 3-tiered systems developed over a long period seem to be complete with all the necessary checks and balances. The bad press associated with the Wollongong Council and planners combined with various widely reported political shenanigans had given me a totally incorrect perspective of the Australian Planning system as a shambles. To the contrary, the system has effectively enabled such widespread projects such as Sydney’s inner city harbourside redevelopments, massive infrastructure provision, and the repopulation program of the Olympic Park complex at Homebush. Furthermore, the redevelopment of the Sydney north and southwest will also provide for future residential and commercial development. A majority of these developments are undertaken with support from innovative planning proposals and arrangements including successful use of a variety of incentives, and also effective public-private participation. There appears to be many lessons available for New Zealand planners from a careful study of preceding activities.

  10. Very good lesson! I have learnt a lot from that!
    The federal government is not much involved into planning decisions. Its might be good?... empowered to the state, regional and local which has more understanding to the basic level of planning…

  11. If anybody is interested to find out more about the Wollongong scandal, here is a video on YouTube which will give you a summary of what had happened. www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVlh_-18NbA

  12. Tsz Ning CHUNG tchu049October 22, 2009 at 11:34 PM

    I would also like to thank John for his time! Like many previous comments, I would also like to comment on the relationship between local government and the State comparing New Zealand and Australia. The local government in not being constitutionally recognized in Australia means that the State has a lot of power in Australia with the State’s role having an emphasis on statutory work and identification of nationally significantly matters. Whereas in the New Zealand planning system the central government has more control. This may be well-portrayed by the central government still having control of the state-highways. I agree with previous comments that influence of politicians in planning decisions is inevitable and must be
    frustration for planners in both Australia and New Zealand.This may be best portrayes by the fact that organisations and groups that provide funding push forward their interests and particular projects the funding should be used for. For me personally, it was quite interesting to note that waterfront redevelopments seems to be happening worldwide in Sydney and Australia, New Zealand eg. ‘Tank Farm’ and Queenswharf and Hong Kong.

  13. I think John’s presentation today was a comprehensive introduction to the planning system in Australia. As a few people have already mentioned NZ and Australian planning systems have a couple of notable differences. The Australian system emphasis the regional level role in planning and decision making processes and the commonwealth government has less power compared to New Zealand.

    I enjoyed John’s presentation as he drew from personal experiences and a pool of knowledge in planning issues in Australia. I found his presentation very insightful which covered a range of issues confronting Australian planners and was excited about the opportunity for his assistance in getting employment or making contacts as I would consider moving to Australia for starting my professional career.

  14. Big thanks John for giving us a very nice presetation for Australian planning. From that lecture, Australian planning system seems similar with New Zealand,which are both having three levels of constitutions - National level, Regional level and local level. Only biggest difference is in Australia there is few power to control from the national level. The more power they given is from the regional and local levels. That is much more freedom and agility for planners. That is meaning of the adage -"right crop for right land" in China. Turn to the New Zealand, although the central govenments always emphasize we need release more power for the lower level to manage and contribute the communities, they still have much limited with that by national policy statements. That is why central governments always encourage and promote more participation in local communities.