What makes a good town planner?
A good town planner needs to strike a balance between the competing interests of many stakeholders including the community, developers and key government agencies and authorities. It’s also about being able to distil a wide range of technical disciplines to support a planning proposal. Town planning itself is not an overly technical profession, it’s about applying logic to get a good outcome.
Did you always know you were going to be a planner? Tell us about your career journey.
During the third year of my primary degree, I did a module on town planning. At the same time, Ireland was going through an economic growth surge aptly named the ‘Celtic Tiger’. The development industry played a key role during this growth period, which ultimately struck a chord and created an interest in how town planning and development works. I felt it would be an interesting industry to be part of given it is so multifaceted and has a broad economic, social and environmental reach.
After finishing my primary degree, I went on to complete a Master’s degree in regional and urban planning in Dublin, with subsequent time spent working within the Scottish and English town planning systems before arriving in Australia in 2012.
What excites you about working on the Ratio Geelong team?
Since arriving in Australia, I’ve worked in the Geelong region, so I’ve always been based in the area whether I’m working in the private or public sector.
During that time, the transformation I’ve seen has been incredible and a lot of that has been led by state and local government investments as well as the private sector. The most exciting thing about working in Ratio’s Geelong office is having the opportunity to not only help the town planning side of the business grow but importantly, be part of the continued transformation of the Geelong region.
Our local office can provide a multidisciplinary offer to our clients that includes town planning, transport, urban design and waste management. That’s a strong point of difference from some of our competitors. We’ve got a lot to offer in terms of helping the Geelong region grow.
How does being local to the Geelong area add value to your new role?
Local experience and knowledge are key to providing clients with a level of comfort that we know the planning framework, whilst also having access to a reliable network of professional contacts.
Having a local office provides that value-add because councils and clients want someone who can say they know the ins and outs of respective planning schemes and understand key issues and emerging trends. You can give clients a quick and accurate response because you know the history of the planning framework.
What areas do you consider your speciality and interest?
I have a broad range of planning experience that spans both statutory and strategic frameworks. For me, the interest relates to using both statutory and strategic planning processes to facilitate good use and development outcomes. I can offer our clients that balance of experience and skills and importantly, within a regional context.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects that you’ve worked on?
For me, it’s more about having a sense of achievement than focussing on a favourite project. This relates to ensuring the projects I work on result in high-quality outcomes whilst meeting the needs of key stakeholders.
Some of the most interesting projects I‘ve worked on in recent times have been where clients have decided to deviate from traditional design typologies and challenge the planning framework by seeking to deliver contemporary design outcomes that respond to changes in market trends but also the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the biggest challenges or shifts facing your industry?
Focusing on the Geelong region, we’re responding to significant demand for housing as people push to achieve a balance in lifestyle that’s so attractive in regional areas. The major challenge that we have down here is that key council areas are struggling to keep up with this demand and ultimately, the ability to release land in a timely manner.
If you’re not meeting housing demand, you’re also increasing affordability issues, and affordability is a massive challenge down here. So, there are some big issues that both state and local governments need to resolve to ensure that housing demand doesn’t become an even bigger problem when the international borders reopen proper and migration levels start to grow again as part of our COVID-normal future.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
I live in Australia’s home of surfing, but I can’t surf!
I always jokingly say that growing up in Ireland, we were heavily influenced by Australian soap dramas, like Home and Away. Safe to say, it went a long way to getting people over here and selling the Australian dream ‒ the beach life ‒ which sounds bizarre to Australians!