Manfred Lee is a familiar and reassuring voice for those applying for Full Membership of the New Zealand Planning Institute. He’s been NZPI’s Membership & Operations Manager for over a decade and has seen hundreds of applicants become Full Members in his time. We asked Manfred to help de-mystify the process to becoming an MNZPI.

What does becoming a Full Member mean?

I’m not a planner but I can speak to what I see are the strengths of Full Membership. It’s recognition from your peers. It provides a connection between officially recognised planners in New Zealand because you have the same shared experience to plan for the future and make things work better for our country.

I’m hearing from planners about how they’re seeing the benefits of networking, coming together at big events like conference and genuinely see the connections that the Institute is making with government. In the past 4 or 5 years I’ve seen these connections strengthen. Our webinars have created more exposure of big planning topics and members are more connected. NZPI is also able to provide a collective voice for planners.

What are the Steps to Becoming a Full Member of NZPI?

The first step is the application, which can be found online HERE. There are 2 paths to applying for Full Membership. Either you have an accredited planning degree and have worked in the profession for 3 years (2 of those must be in New Zealand), or you have a qualification that is not accredited by you have worked in the planning profession for 7 years, where once again 2 of those must be in New Zealand.

Applicants must provide 3 examples of their work, a verified work record, and ask a Full Member to sponsor their application. Sometimes we have applicants who’ve only worked in one area of planning such as the processing of resource consents. This is acceptable if applicants can demonstrate that they have a wider understanding of the practice of planning. The big picture. This could come from wider reading or CPD.

Examples may include projects where the applicant has worked on them as part of a team. This is not uncommon as planners advance in their careers. But the applicant must clearly demonstrate what role they’ve worked in as part of the project.

NZPI requires all applicants to have completed 2 core CDP workshops. Ethics for Planners and Planning for Māori Values: Advanced. NZPI also offer courses in Planning for Māori Values: Introduction and Intermediate, which are not compulsory requirements for Full Membership but are hugely beneficial for those who do not have a strong understanding of Tikanga. NZPI strongly encourage applicants who do not have an accredited planning qualification, such as those who’ve studied outside of New Zealand, to enrol in these workshops before completing the Advanced course.

What Comes Next?

I check the applications to ensure that all the information has been provided and pass them on to one of our 2 membership convenors to review. We’re thankful for Andrea Harris and Caroline Miller who’ve continued to undertake this important role for the profession.

If there are no concerns with the applications and all the necessary information is there, I set up a time, location and panel for the interview. In the past these were always in person, and we sometimes had to wait till we had a group of applicants before sending a panel to an out-of-town location to run multiple interviews over a week. These days the online option eliminates barriers that some applicants may have to getting to an in-person interview. However, many of our interviews are still in-person, most often in Auckland and Wellington. The Auckland interviews are usually in NZPI’s head office in central Auckland.

Interview Day

Many applicants say to me that they feel like their membership interview is like a job interview. But it doesn’t need to. What it’s really about is a group of planners coming together to have a chat about planning. The 3 panellists in the interview will ask a range of questions, some about the examples that the candidates have provided and others to gauge the applicant’s broader understanding of planning. The Institute and the panel want to see planners come through the interview and get Full Membership. Questions are welcome and the interview is a two-way process. They are there to help.

When do you find out if you are an MNZPI?

The panel chair will usually let the applicant know if they’re successful on the next day following the interview. If they’re successful they will be congratulated by the chair and within 2 weeks a letter of confirmation will be sent, and their Full Membership will be updated in the system. If they are unsuccessful the applicant will receive a call from the chair to let them know. Each scenario is different, but an unsuccessful applicant may be encouraged to apply again after they’ve gained more experience or knowledge. Sometimes applicants find that nerves get in the way, and they’re invited to come back for another interview sooner. The Institute will offer support to the applicant, usually through some form of mentoring. Often a member of the panel will be willing to mentor an unsuccessful applicant to get them to Full Membership. NZPI is in the process of developing a more formal mentoring programme that they hope to launch next year.

I’m a Full Member so Now What?

A new Full Member will have to wait till after the next Board meeting to receive their certificate because each one is hand signed before it is given to the member. All Full Members are listed in NZPI’s Annual Report and often Branches will celebrate new members at their meetings.

Full Membership will be immediately recognised by your peers. You will be able to vote in Board elections and be nominated for Chair of your local branch or the NZPI Board. NZPI has reciprocal Full Membership agreements with PIA (Australia) and the Irish Institute of Planners. The Institute is engaged in ongoing work to extend these agreements to RTPI (UK), CIA (Canada), and APA (USA).

Why Do You Work for NZPI?

We already have 3 new Full Members in 2024 and there are several more excellent candidates coming through soon. I enjoy speaking to people and even though I’m not a planner (my background is in IT) I’m interested in planning issues and the topics that come up in the interviews. I’m also here for the team that I work with at NZPI. It’s a great atmosphere and an interesting job.

Please contact Manfred if you have any questions or are interested in applying for Full Membership at manfred.lee@planning.org.nz