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Tales of the City
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`How I learned to stop worrying and love the MSS` - Chapter 1
Citizen #381277

Chapter 1 - "If Jason Black can do it..."

After two years of study, a nurse is almost qualified to practise his or her trade. An accountant similarly will understand the major aspects of accountancy while a real estate agent can and probably will start his or her own practice. A planner after two years of study, however, will understand the basic documents relating to urban planning, have a basic grasp of the concepts involved in planning and generally not much else. This is how I felt after my first week of work in the Strategic Planning office. After the initial introduction to Stonnington, I was given a large folder that contained the documents relating to C38 - Minor Amendments to the Stonnington Planning Scheme and told that I was to prepare this amendment to the Stonnington Planning Scheme. I remember I sat there for a good two hours reading over the papers in the folder and wondering 'what the hell is going on here?' More to the point, 'what the hell was going on' had sections due in three days that I was supposed to complete.

The most important thing I learnt in the first week was to ask questions. Ask lots of questions, frequently, and don't be afraid of asking a few more.

Once this epiphany had passed, I settled down to begin work on Amendment C38. It wasn't a particularly difficult task - removing out of date reference documents from sections of the Municipal Strategic Statement - but there was still a very empty part of my mind that was yet to be filled with the knowledge of how to prepare an amendment. Several key thoughts stand out from these early days:

The biggest hurdle I'm finding (thus far) is with the wording of letters to residents.
There appears to be a thin (sort of) line between putting the right info into the letter, and making it readable for someone who doesn't have a background in planning.
compared to my previous labouring job, the hours here go far too slowly for my liking, even though I'm busy with a task most of the time. Bleh.

So, the process of preparing an amendment to a planning scheme was a process that was utterly alien, and I started to enjoy it. Everything, I learnt, has a certain process that must be adhered to. From wording to justification and type, there is a certain way of writing when you work in planning, and I daresay this has rubbed off on a lot of my university assignments. Concise and sharp, you have to be able to say exactly the right thing, otherwise there is a great potential for misinterpretation. This isn't just confined the Strategic Planning, as I will later discuss.

Chapter 2 coming up later. You guys need a break.

Planning 18th May, 2005 20:25:00   [#] 


I understand what you mean here: I've seen too many planning students all inspired with theory, but no idea of how that translates to reality. Theory is fine, but it affects real people. People who have homes, businesses and cars.

They don't, and should never have to, care about theories and policies - they just want to get on with their lives with a minimum of fuss. I've seen some truly idiotic things required by planning staff who don't hav ethe confidence and foresight to make a call and stand by it, and some truly inspired decisions too made by those who realise that planners are here to serve and guide, not obstruct and vassilate. It's the inspired people who will get most frustrated by working in local government: however, they will also be the ones who are remembered, and who advance.

Local government is political, annoying possesses the strangest power structure known to man, and yet it is most people's experience of government. We can make it good or we can be the frustration. I recall working in a council in Sydney, one with extrordinarily restrictive ideas about heritage. Whilst walking through reception one day, I overheard a staff member being asked about a heritage area by a ratepayer. The lady didn't get an answer, or an explanation: the staff member simply shrigged his shoulders and said "dunno". Helpful. No doubt next time that ratepayer had do deal with Council she thought they were all a bunch of morons, and who can blame her?

Correspondence is an art, and lets you be creative. There's lots ot be enjoyed!

Here endeth the ranting, sirrah


Dean Balkin  26th May, 2005 15:40:59  

Dean Balkin...
...who are you?

I'm not sure about being creative in local government. All we do is work off templates. Is that creative? I think not. Ugh. 'cuse the pessimism.
Tom  29th May, 2005 23:50:24  


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