PIA SA Blog - The culture of planning?

5th Jul 16

Planning and development decisions are often blamed for many of our current community issues such as housing affordability and obesity to name a few.

Media stories about planning reflect a high degree of tension between community interests and the developer with planners caught in the middle of the debate. A study of planning related media over a 12 month period found across Australia 85% of all stories relating to planning were negative. This has wide reaching influence to the perception of planning. Poor perception can hinder recruitment to the profession, willingness for the community to engage and adversely affect the boarder culture of planning.

The poor perception of planning in the media, ICAC investigations and associated publicity, along with conservative legal advice provided to councils has resulted in greater fear and thereby barriers for planners when negotiating development and possible ways forward.

Planning is a heavy handed system that punishes consequence with little or no reward for the planner when they 'get it right'. Rather there is reward or benefit in not making a mistake which results in planners having greater comfort or cause to 'do nothing'.

Further challenges arise as a result of the timescales associated with updating strategic plans. In some cases outdated planning instruments have led to the development of planning knowledge and the subsequent use of alternative planning mechanisms 'to get around the system'. Inevitably this inconsistent and unsubstantiated approach can lead to conflict and even the perception of corrupt behaviours.

As a result:

  • It is easier not to make a decision
  • There has been a focus on passive planning and keeping things as they are compared to active planning that seeks to find solutions
  • There is a lack of values and priorities in planning - for example affordable housing is a right that needs to be planned for and addressed, its provision should not be dictated by the perceptions of the local community
  • Planning is trying to please everyone but is in fact not pleasing anyone
  • Planning decision makers need to become fearless - rather they have become fearful
  • Planners need to shift from control to desired outcomes, from fear to independence.


A culture shift in planning is required to set a framework or foundation to enable the new act to be most effectively and efficiently implemented in the way envisaged during its drafting and debate. So that, even with a new system, we don't continue to make and manage decisions in a similar way undermining planning and resulting in a toxic culture.

PIA along with other industry bodies, government authorities and individuals representing planning in SA will need to lead by example and work collaboratively to achieve lasting outcomes.

Kym Pryde MPIA
President PIA SA,
on behalf of the PIA SA Division Committee

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