We spoke with George Inglis, the newly appointed SA Executive Officer of the Planning Institute of Australia SA (PIA). George’s obvious passion for his new role and the planning industry is evident as he shares his thoughts on Adelaide, the planning industry and what’s in store during his first year in the job.
What are the key things you will be focussing on in your first year of tenure?
First, there is a big national restructure in place which I will be implementing in South Australia. This is principally about professionalising the organisation and making it more competitive. Membership with the PIA is not compulsory, so we are competing with other organisations for those discretionary member dollars. We want to become a stronger player, more representative and better value for members.
Secondly, there are two key priorities I will be focussing on: improving how planners are perceived and improving how planners perceive themselves. I want planners to be recognised and valued for the important work they do. I also want planners themselves to recognise the importance of their role in the development of the community.
My aim is to show the importance of the planning profession and to help dispel unfair assumptions sometimes placed on members of the planning sector. A big part of this will involve building a better dialogue with the development sector and with planners.
We are also looking at changes to the way we govern communities through community led economic development. It’s a move away from community consultation towards community empowerment and is about empowering communities to gather their strengths and push their ideas forward.
How is the Planning Industry faring in the current economic climate?
Planning is often quite long term, so depending on which area of planning you are in, you could be insulated from economic ups and downs. State and local governments don’t stop planning because populations don’t stop changing and evolving. There is always some planning going on and always planning in the pipeline.
The private sector is more likely to feel the fluctuations of economic ups and downs. However, private sector planners are also highly adaptable. There is a deeper layer of thinking now around the development that we do. There is a lot more planning work going on that didn’t previously. This is due to a greater emphasis on places and place making, the value of good design, the integration of planning, infrastructure and community involvement. So essentially what could be (on paper) a simple development, can have a lot of spin off potential for other involvement with planners, designers and local development.
What are the most common career paths for planning graduates?
Careers in planning used to be quite structured. Graduates commonly went on a set process; from graduation to councils, moving up the ranks within councils and then ending up in the private sector once they had gained sufficient experience. We find this is loosening now, with the private sector being more open to graduate planners than they were previously.
The most common starting role is the Development Assessment Planner. It’s an excellent place to start, giving planners the skills to develop their decision making ability and convert plans to real world outcomes.
From a planning perspective, how do you think Adelaide is going at present?
I think Adelaide is proving to be a real leader in this area at the moment.
The creation of Independent Development Assessment Panels in the mid 2000’s was a major change and really moved us forward by assisting to depoliticise the development decisions that get made in Adelaide. SA has led reform in this area and other states have followed suit.
In addition, the Vibrant Adelaide Project which has a heavy planning component has been taken to heart by all spheres of Government and the community.
There has been a shift towards a more holistic approach to development - beyond just planning and beyond just building, to focus on what makes a place work. More recently, SA is at the epicentre of that charge.