Home' API Magazine : December 2014 Contents 36 n APIMAGAZINE.COM.AU n DECEMBER 2014
sense, you almost have an upper hand,
in terms of what anyone will read.”
This makes life as a town planner
extremely satisfying and rewarding.
In many ways you’re not just changing
a suburb’s look and feel, you’re also
helping investors make profitable deals.
“ There’s a satisfaction in getting an
outcome for someone and achieving
the result the client wanted,” Hammoud
says. “The typical one is getting a
building slightly bigger than what
council will allow. Everyone always
wants to push boundaries.”
Of course, town planning is “pretty
black and white” and so it’s impossible
to put a positive spin on something that
won’t pass through council.
“A lot of it is measured and clear cut,”
“At the end of the day there’s your own
integrity and there are cases where the
impacts are unavoidable. It’s a question
of where you can draw the line.”
Of course, you always know about
zoning changes and new town plans,
meaning you can jump on them and
potentially make a profit if you get in
early enough. That’s often where town
planners are needed. They simply know
more than the average person about
what can be done with sites.
“We get that people have no idea
what they can do with their property,”
“ They say, ‘it looks big. I think I can
do something. Can you help me?’ Others
have the exact type of development in
mind, they just need someone to help
them through the process.”
That process will take them right from
the beginning to the very end.
“ They might have seen a property
on the weekend and they’ll call on the
Monday. They’ll say ‘what are your
thoughts?’ Those clients can be harder,
because they don’t know that much
about the property. They’ll rely on us
to make informed decisions, which
brings in risk. That’s where we start
Those risky questions usually
involve an investor wanting specific
information about how they can achieve
a financial gain.
“ That’s where we draw the line. The
risk is, if we give that information out
and it falls through, we have a liability,”
Hammoud says. “In our industry there’s
insurance protection in place but we’re
dealing with a large amount of money.”
Rebuilding a town
There aren’t many bigger achievements for a town planner than helping out a community
that’s been devastated by a disaster. Queensland president of the Planning Institute of
Australia (PIA) and now managing consultant of MWH Global Kate Isles did just that four
years ago, after floods in January 2011 devastated the Queensland community of Grantham.
“There were almost 200 homes destroyed or beyond repair across Lockyer Valley,” Kate
recalls. “The community was left reeling following the tragic loss of life, so immediately after
the event Lockyer Valley Council recognised they needed to do something and lead the way.”
A community consultation resulted in an overwhelming majority of residents asking to be
moved. Locals wanted to stay in Grantham, but they wanted to feel safe.
As the then-director of land use planning at the Queensland Reconstruction Authority
(QRA), Kate led a state government team to help make that happen. A rural parcel of land
was purchased that would provide new lots to relocate affected residents.
“Between ourselves (QRA), other state agencies, the council and Federal Government, we
worked out who needed to do what,” Kate says. “The Queensland Reconstruction Authority
Act came into action on February 21, 2011. The legislation enabled the declaration of
‘reconstruction areas’. We wrote that legislation with Grantham in mind.”
In a nutshell, the goal was to have displaced families in new homes by Christmas 2011
and, Kate says, “we needed to do whatever we could to help this goal be realised”.
Normally when property is zoned rural, it can take two or three years to create zoning
changes and allow land to become residential.
“Our job was to translate a community-led master plan into a land use plan, which would
regulate development. By using the Act, we were essentially saying ‘this is an emergency
situation and we need to respond’,” Kate says.
Working towards a goal of Christmas 2011 was a tough ask, because the master plan
needed to be created along with a land use plan, not to mention further community
consultation, actual construction of the roads and then the houses themselves.
Once the land was approved for development, the council led an Australian-first historic
land ballot system, wherein up to 200 families could nominate themselves for a new
allotment on the higher ground. Through insurance cover, the residents could then build or
relocate their homes on the new block.
“Approximately 75 per cent of people who entered the ballot received either their first,
second or third preference for a new block,” Kate recalls.
“Their existing flood-prone land was now literally worth nothing and the ballot enabled
them to be given land on higher ground, which would have been worth a lot more. This was
small compensation for what these residents had witnessed and experienced.”
Four years later, Kate is still thanked and congratulated for her role in the project. She says
as a town planner, it’s probably the most rewarding and satisfying project she will ever do.
“I still quite often speak with those members of the community, who are so grateful,” she
says. “I honestly believe Grantham has been strengthened as a result.”
A TOWN PLANNER’S BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT
Grantham after the floods
Artist’s impression of the new community centre
Moving to higher ground
BEHIND THE SCENES n Town Planner
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