A plea for us to behave like experts

Keeping it real with shorter planning reports

SESSION: Thursday 21st March, 3:10pm - 3:40pm
Michael Durand

Think about the longest and most exhaustive planning reports you come across and consider the following points:

"The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read." - Churchill
"An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore." - de Bono

One of the most conspicuous features of planning culture is that planning reports are extremely large. Their characteristics include quoting tracts of legislation or plans, repeating other documents, repeating themselves, and a structure where critical statements are positioned not deliberately according to importance, but mechanically according to the template. This is despite the RMA's obvious provisions endorsing proportionality, and despite most of us being over-worked and time short. Reports create risks: of not being read, of not being understood, of the most salient points being missed, and costing too much. They erode the endurance of all planners and threaten the public's tolerance of us.

Such reports also risk presenting a planner's assessment rather than a planner's advice. What is the real purpose of these reports? Their function is to present advice from one expert in planning to another expert in planning on their decision on a planning matter. Advice from one evaluative expert to another. Why the exhaustive presentation of matters not pertinent to the decision?

In this presentation I will address each of these questions in turn, in a plea for us to behave like the experts we are, and keep it real: Assess everything that could matter. Advise on what does matter. Keep it as simple as possible. Know what to pay attention to. Know what to ignore.

Presented By

Michael Durand

Consultant Planner, Planz Consultants

Michael has 17 years planning experience in local government, central government and consulting. He has been involved in thousands of resource consents as a planner and decision maker, and has read (partially) thousands of planning reports. He is passionate about growth of the sector's capacity, capability and reputation, and sees potential for this in re-framing planners as what they were always meant to be: evaluative experts providing advice on what to do.