Monday, February 28, 2005

Rural Planning is dying the death of a thousand cuts.


The simple facts are that a planners role is never very well understood. The current high economic and ethical pressure on rural industry makes it worse for those who act at the coalface of planning there .The dangerous alienation of the moment need not be so, as rural communities have a deep commitment ( that overused word) to holding a practical and realistic tension between short term gain and long term pain that lies at the heart of good planning.
BUT CURRENTLY Planners and environmental planners, in particular, find it really hard to survive in areas where they are most needed and most alone ( the country).

Industry finds too it really hard to accept planning when the government operatives are not experienced and aware of rural realities - seeming to be driven more and more by city centric logic on matters of environment in particular.Time is needed to train good environmental planners.

How serious is the problem ? I suggest that whatever the budget says , local government resources for planners is clearly waning. Despite all the talk of New funding projects in this area, The project budget maybe full, but the profesional toolbox has been raided and a lot of people who could do the job are not there .More importanatly real rural planners feel like thretaened species. As often happens with reactive politics , the money arrives only after the critical point of balance has been lost . Is it true in your area? tell us here !
Witness the numbers of councillors elected on a "roads first " platform and the unresolved high loss rate of experienced staff from rural areas. Anyone can do environmental planning – ask the media and marginal polys --they seem to know a lot about these things .

Those of us who have made their job planning know the above cynical element will probably never change and that their job will always be " a difficult one".
The point is that this cynical project based funding
is anti professional, counterproductive and likely to be read as self fulfilling prophecy for planning's many critics . Death by a thousand cuts.


THERFORE what can and must change is provision of a stable unchanging professional framework for planners to operate in. The mad changing of directions and projects by overrated and unnecessary fund managers in planning and environment must stop to support the leaky boat. The madness will continue while polys fund projects rather than people.
Short term gain long term pain
People are the key to good government business and the system is alienating them like no time before .To those sustainability scientists who have contributed to this great Australian tradition, planning remains a critical job under threat from a thousand changes of direction and responsibility. The most important jobs in environment will go first ---to be left to those who like simple agendas.Not a good outcome and risking the strong cultural commitment to planning that is one of the most powerful edges to our "most liveable status"

For example, whose job is it too provide independent advice on development applications? The planners?, the strategic planners ,The departments of environment the NGOS , some QUANGO?, the CMA's , some high level policy group , state government committees, Some CODE some private consultants , or heaven used to forbid it ---the courts . Talk about heaps of unsustainable process getting in the road of good governance !!!!!
The reality is that if several are in charge, no one is charge . Nooone is in charge and noone wants to work for 10 bosses- especially when they keep changing direction like the fund managers who follow the leaders .

Planning is of course a much more sustainable and sensible profession than much politics . At least it used to be . What do we do now then? Plan for our future, or our future demise - to please the political process is to not plan.

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