Working around the world: Melbourne, Australia

Published on: 30 May 2017

Melbourne, Australia [square]Dale Bristow, team leader in strategic planning and sustainability at Maroondah City Council in Melbourne, Australia, talks about his work and the issues facing the area.

Residing in arguably the world’s most liveable city, I supervise a team of seven in undertaking reviews and development of council’s strategic planning and sustainability frameworks. In doing this, I am achieving what attracted me to the profession – protecting and enhancing the environment.

I have seen and heard many examples of planning resulting in excellent project outcomes and really enjoy the opportunity to work alongside some inspirational planners. However, in Victoria (planning is a state- based responsibility) planners arguably need to become more strategic, visionary and multi-disciplinary in our approach. There needs to be a much greater emphasis, and regard to, strategic and regional planning, complemented by a much-simplified planning system. We need to address wider spatial planning matters and not be so focused on statutory land use controls.

Strategic planning is a relatively new function and is yet to command the influence and resources, as in the UK, I have heard it said, “things occur despite the plan”. The influence and freedom of councils to undertake planning is much more limited than in the UK as councils are controlled by state governments, which can stifle innovation and responsive solutions. There are pressures on local councils, but the financial pressures are seemingly not as acute as in the UK.

While we’ve got great food, coffee and access to world-class sporting and cultural events, my local area is transitioning from a largely suburban form (detached dwellings, car-oriented) to a more sustainable pattern of land use (more bike infrastructure, open space, mixed use and accessibility). We need to be providing greater diversity in housing choice but still protecting the tree canopy and leafy neighbourhood character.

Despite the initial shock of moving to the other side of the world and adjusting to 40°C temperatures, the move abroad has been a positive experience providing both great professional and lifestyle opportunities.

* This article first appeared in the July 2015 issue of The Planner.

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