For WSP experts in the planning, water, environmental and smart-mobility sectors, the NZPI conference is an opportunity to connect with 700+ allied professionals across New Zealand. It provides a forum for the country’s leading planning professionals to share and build on the best-practice approaches for sustainable and resilient planning - for both built and natural environments.

This year’s theme, Weaving the Strands, steered discussions towards all aspects of the environment, with strong emphasis and value on leadership, integration and collaboration.

Here are my top five takeaways from the conference

  1. Māori, as kaitiaki of Aotearoa, has a very significant role in planning for our communities, environments and decision-making at all levels. It’s very encouraging to see the incorporation of Māori perspectives, Te Reo Māori and Mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) into our planning profession. But there is still much to do. WSP Opus has recognised that Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) is important for the planning profession and for Papa Pounamu.
  2. We are facing increasing challenges related to resource scarcity and climate change, including pressure on valuable soils. We heard a great presentation from our own, Stephen McNally, Head of Primary Industries, on just how vital our agriculture sector is to wellbeing and future security and why it can’t be chipped away for other development.
  3. Tahu Kukutai, Professor of Demography at the University of Waikato, sketched out the structural changes in the context of population ageing, migration-driven ethnic composition change, and inequality and employment skill supply. Professor Kukutai challenged us to think about how our divergent towns and cities must plan for what might be quite different types of communities featuring a very different blend of ages and backgrounds.
  4. There is a need for Urban and Environmental Planners to take a more visible front-seat role in planning for the future of New Zealand, using their skills to balance the competing needs of hard and soft infrastructure, community and culture.
  5. The need to draw on global expertise was clearly recognised. However, this needs to be underpinned by a strong and relevant understanding of the unique needs, aspirations and culture of local communities.  Such needs can vary significantly between regions – there is no one-size-fits all solution; and much to celebrate in diversity.