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Hobbs Speech: Australia - NZ Planning Congress

12 April 2002 Speech Notes

Closing Address Australia - New Zealand Planning Congress Wellington 12 April 2002 3:30 pm

Planning For A Sustainable Future

Thank you for the invitation to close your joint national congress of the Royal Australian Planning Institute and the New Zealand Planning Institute. I understand you've had some lively discussions and interesting debates since I opened the congress on Tuesday morning.

The issues we face today are too big, too complex and change too quickly for us to go it alone. We need to share our experiences and ideas, and broaden our outlook. We need to look over each other’s fences to see what our neighbours are doing - to adapt, share and grow new ideas.

I hope that a continuing legacy of this conference will be new friendships and the free exchange of ideas and experiences across the Tasman.

I understand that councillors and senior managers began this conference with a workshop on governance - or more precisely the impacts on governance models of crosscutting issues such as urban sustainability.

I am interested in following up on the outcomes of this workshop. Because in my view our traditional - often statutory - processes of working and relating to one another are found wanting when we are faced with tough environmental issues. The reality is, we are not good at making collective consensus decisions at a community level.

You are planners. Let's be basic. Why do we plan? To ensure that the resources we have now are there for our grandchildren in the same quality and quantity. Secondly we plan in order to reach agreement over how we use space, energy, water. Example [Wairau Valley]

I would like to throw down some challenges for you, as planning professionals, as you leave this congress.

The first question I want to ask is: are our plans achieving our goals? I think the answer is yes and no.

Yes, by and large the statutory plans prepared under the Resource Management Act - that I acknowledge have taken far longer to implement than anyone would have imagined - seem to be working quite well for everyday processes. The massive expensive effort that has gone into preparing our district plans seems for the most part to have resulted in plans that communities are working with reasonably well.

But no, in that I receive many letters from people complaining about RMA plans and processes, including: the Act’s apparently litigious nature, a lack of understanding about the processes, and feeling intimidated about getting involved.

The problem as I see it is that for most people it is not until you are actually hit by a resource management issue that you become involved. I think that the challenge for you as planners is to make planning actually matter sooner for people. As professionals you need to work more smartly with your communities, clients and ratepayers - take them on board sooner and help them to understand the issues better. It’s about education! And the fastest way to learn -- is to do it - to become involved in planning.

So what do I see as some of the barriers to good planning?

First up is what I refer to as “silo planning’. That is where you plan in a narrow and piece-meal manner with little regard for the broader consequences. For example, an industry sets up in an area - it might be a wood-processing factory or it might even be the forests that supply it - with little regard or thought (planning) having gone into the roading infrastructure that will be required to support it in the future. There are examples like this all over the country. [Gisborne - forests, but no roads for the harvest 25 years after planting]

It is also about, say, planning for developments around a harbour (very near here I might add!) and having regard for off-site effects such as stormwater or drainage. - And getting the co-operation among the three councils whose water and soil flows into the harbour. Do they share standards and approaches?

Don’t worry central government is not immune from the “silo planning’ malaise either. Look at the impact of the importation of second-hand cars. Sure, we have significantly upgraded the quality of the New Zealand vehicle fleet and motor vehicle ownership is now much more affordable for the average family. But did anyone ever really consider the consequent congestion on our big cities' roads? Or the air pollution that has developed.

The second barrier is planning without effective community participation. I know you will have all seen it. A plan is dumped on a community and there is an immediate allergic reaction. Then it all ends up in endless litigation.

I know there is a need to balance a community’s ability to actually handle all the consultation. Consultation fatigue is a real and significant issue. Again, central government gets itself caught in this trap too.

Finally, there is planning without monitoring and review. Monitoring and review is a critical but, too often, overlooked step in the policy cycle. How often do we get to the end of the policy development and implementation stages of plans - breathe a huge sigh of relief - and say “well we don’t have to worry about that for a while.’

Monitoring - to check that what we agreed to in the plan is actually what happens - that the mussel farm is the 10ha that was agreed to rather than the 20ha it grew to without anyone noticing or monitoring.

Review - Yes, it was our plan and we sweated over it, but there're dairy farms going in, different perspectives about water allocation - how do we review?

So what do I see as some of the ways forward to overcoming these barriers?

First, the antidote to “silo planning’ - form alliances as you develop your plans and strategies.

A core component of such an approach is an ability to set visions and goals. Not the organisation's visions and goals but the community’s visions and goals. This is about involving communities in the planning process. The Local Government Bill looks set to broaden the focus of this type of planning approach and make it a central to the concept of local democracy.

We need to be strategic in our outlook and set broad directions that we can agree on and work toward.

I think we are seeing some of these types of governance models beginning to emerge in New Zealand. I’m thinking here of the Auckland Growth Forum, Future Path Canterbury and Southland’s Shared Services Forum. All these models are based on partnership and cooperation.

The government has been working this way in several key areas.

Last month I launched The New Zealand Waste Strategy. The Strategy sets out a vision and action plan for reducing and improving the way we manage waste in New Zealand. I am proud of the way the Strategy was developed.

The New Zealand Waste Strategy is a product of the collaboration between Local Government New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment. It signals a new relationship between central and local government based on partnership. We need each other if we are going to tackle the waste issue. This kind of collaborative effort must become more common in the future.

I have also been working in a similar way with the dairy industry in tackling that industry’s environmental issues. To help achieve a durable and effective solution to water quality issues, the Minister of Agriculture and I asked the Ministry for the Environment to convene a top-level group from Fonterra, regional councils, MfE and MAF.

Secondly, the antidote to planning without participation - allow the community to own the SOLUTION and not just the problem.

This helps to build a community’s confidence in the process. It might mean having to cut a large problem into smaller “bite-sized’ chunks and there is no problem with that - as long as all the bits are linked to the overall strategy.

The key to this antidote is being able to show people that there are measurable results from the changed personal behaviour.

Again, that is why I am so excited about the Waste Strategy. The Strategy makes it quite clear that waste is our problem, it is everybody’s problem and everybody has a responsibility to do something about it. It confronts the linkage between economic growth and environmental degradation and underlies the need to break this connection. Authorities are also beginning to introduce to their communities measures that reflect the full cost of waste disposal that I am sure will have a dramatic effect on the amount of waste produced.

Finally, the antidote to planning without monitoring and review - make monitoring and review a high priority and an integral part of your planning processes

Monitoring and review are a critical component of the feedback loop in planning for a sustainable future.

Effective sustainable development requires that progress is reviewed and that measurements are taken towards achieving stated goals. Reviewing and reporting on progress is about being as effective and as efficient as we can be. It is also about being accountable.

Reviews are also about communicating findings - making environmental issues real and relevant to people. It is about painting the picture of where we are at and the journey we have still to travel.

Urban sustainability issues such as waste, energy conservation and air quality all rely on individuals to change their behaviour - to compost the garden waste, to take a bus to work or to refrain from lighting a fire on cold frosty nights.

We need to engage people in the issues. We need to tell them about the situation as well as create a feeling that something needs to be done and we need to give them feedback - that they have or have not made a difference.

Later this year I will be attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. We are working hard on our preparations for the Summit. We are currently preparing a sustainable development indicators' report, which will form part of our contribution. The report will gather together, for the first time on a national scale in New Zealand, indicators relevant to sustainable development and will attempt to measure whether New Zealand’s current path of development is sustainable.

I hope that the public will find the report and its interactive web version interesting and thought provoking.

We are working on triple bottom line reporting. Measuring the economic and social heath of an organisation as well as an organisation’s ecological footprint. Many private companies and local authorities in New Zealand and Australia are well ahead of our government departments in using and benefiting from triple bottom line approaches. The Ministry for the Environment is presently on a learning curve as it begins to develop a triple bottom line approach for the organisation. The Ministry is also facilitating a pilot programme of seven other government departments who are also developing their triple bottom line report. It is early days yet but already the findings are indicating areas for improvement.


I started this talk by throwing down some challenges to you, as planning professionals.

I have given you my thoughts on what I see are the barriers to good planning. I have also given you what I see are the antidotes to overcoming these barriers:

- Form alliances as you develop your plans and strategies.

- Allow the community to own the solution and not just the problem.

- Make monitoring and review a high priority and integral part of your planning processes

But also take a bow. We have come a long way in planning. We are more inclusive than we used to be. We take far more values into the plan. And we are not rigid. My thoughts come to you as one new to this kind of community planning. One day, all of us will be involved, all of us will be experts and you will be exhausted by our enthusiasm and contradictions.

Thank you for your past work and your future commitment.

I hope you all have a safe journey home.

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