Some Call it Dissent?

No – I would call it healthy debate!


Yesterday concluded the annual Planning Institute of Australia’s congress in Sydney. The PIA website can be found here while a related competition can be found here.

Keeping an eye via the #pia2014 hashtag on Twitter as well as various over digital means it was interesting to see the points coming out from this congress. The key-note presentation at the end of the Congress was from Brent Toderian who gave a presentation last year and is due back here in NZ very soon.


However, I picked up a Tweet this morning that was somewhat “unusual” and warranted a further look. It brought me to this: “Toderian’s 10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement”: A confused response by Wendy Sarkissian.

The introduction from that blog post went:

Toderian’s 10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement”: A confused response

“Engagement Done Well”
In a few days, Vancouver planner Brent Toderian will be speaking in Sydney, where last year he was training planning bureaucrats in the NSW State Government in community engagement.

His conference topic is “Density Done Well”.  My topic in the preceding session was “Engagement Done Well”, making the point that density done well needs community engagement done well.

My speaking post was mysteriously cancelled – without explanation.

I wonder if it had anything to do with my support of the Better Planning Network’s concerns about the proposed NSW planning legislation.

In any case, while Toderian is selling Vancouverism to Australians, I am eagerly listening to Vancouverites – and especially to Vancouver’s activists. It’s a Council election year there and it’s on for one and all when it comes to community engagement.

But it’s definitely not on in the ways Toderian would have us believe.

Cultural Imperialism

I’ve written before about Toderian’s and Vancouver’s cultural imperialism (

– See more at:



I am not going to comment per-se on the issue back in Sydney but it did raise an eye brow in any case. Wendy’s critique was to this piece from Brent Toderian on Planetizien called “10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement.

I am not sure I have written commentary on it before (something tells me I have) but regardless I will get some (fresh) commentary up on Toderian’s piece any way. This is especially after I saw this from the PIA on Twitter earlier this morning which also earned my response straight away:

PIA @pia_planning 4m
Brendan Blakeley – people time poor & heaps of info. How do you make engagement ‘sexy’? Festivals, vox pops, prototyping #pia2014

Well not talking planning jargon not talking at people rather than to them would be a start before we go sexy. 

It is quite amazing how I can sit just anyone down over a cup of tea with the 7000 page unitary plan and by the end of it we get a satisfied person who can “engage” with the UP from their view point.
Definitely “not sexy” but it sure as anything works


And that is something I do not make up in regards to the Unitary Plan. I am no Resource Management Lawyer but I can wade my way through 7,000 pages of Unitary Plan and turn the utterly complex and confusing into something more digestible for people out there. As Desley Simpson of Orakei Local Board said last year; “99% of Aucklanders are not planners.” That is correct to the point that even I am not a Planner. And to be honest I do bristle if I get labelled as one rather than as a Geographer which is a more apt label if I was to be given one.

Any how Desley is right in that 99% of the City are not planners and when presented a chasm that is the Unitary Plan the bridging of that chasm is not easy particular feat. If that chasm is not bridged or there is a sense of rail-roading by planners then resentment will arise. And by rail-roading I mean rail-roading critiques against planners or a planning authority from others out there which might have been the case in New South Wales taking note of above.

Sometime this week I will run the commentary ruler over Toderian’s community engagement post and relate it back to the Auckland experience.


In the mean time remember that in May we start the next round of submissions with the Unitary Plan. Speaking of which I wonder where my acknowledgement letter for my submission went.

UP poster PNG picture

Yes I am still talking Unitary Plan even though we are on a lull for the moment.