2019 PIA NSW Awards for Planning Excellence Ceremony – Stuart Melville Photography

An elevated train line and Greater Sydney’s first comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework were among the winners of the Planning Institute of Australia’s 2019 NSW Awards for Planning Excellence.

Presented last Thursday, 7 November at the Ivy Ballroom in Sydney, the PIA NSW awards were a chance to celebrate the often unsung efforts of the state’s planners, according to PIA president Juliet Grant.

“Planners tend to be passionate about what they do and don’t often stop to reflect on whether their actions are indeed exemplary,” Ms Grant said.

The awards recognised standout projects and individuals from NSW’s planning industry, and were judged by a panel of nine industry professionals, including Green Building Council of Australia’s chief executive, Davina Rooney, and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s principal planner, Rukshan Henry de Silva.

Sydney Metro took out the award for Best Planning Ideas – Large Project with Sydney Northwest Skytrain. According to the judges, the 4-kilometre-long line from Bella Vista to Rouse Hill offers an “elegant solution to the complexities of the corridor”.

“Its planning excellence lies in how well the rail, skytrain and new stations integrate with surrounding communities, parkland corridors, and commuter parking to create a place and local character at each interchange area,” the judges said.

The inclusion of pedestrian and cycle paths were commended, as well as the elevation of the line, which the judges said would give commuters a more scenic experience in contrast with “the long tunnel of most of the Metro”.

A controversial project to re-zone and sell underused parcels of council-owned green space to co-fund open space improvements took out the Hard Won Victory award.

Penrith City Council rallied community support in the program’s pilot at Erskine Park, which led to divestment of land parcels deemed to have little recreational value, to fund a network of more useful open spaces.

So far, seven spaces have been rezoned and sold to the market, and the council predicts it will have reinvested about $5.3 million across the suburb by 2021, leading the judges to remark: “How controversial is that!”.

The Planner of the Year Award went to Stephanie Barker, acting executive director at the Greater Sydney Commission, for her “strong leadership, unrivalled work ethic” and contribution to the Commission’s assurance program.

The judges were particularly impressed by her role in developing and delivering the The Pulse of Greater Sydney report, which synthesizes varied government data to track Greater Sydney’s “evolution towards a Metropolis of Three Cities”.

They noted the report marks the first time such a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework has been developed for Greater Sydney, and highlighted that Ms Barker’s “tenacity, expertise and experience” were fundamental to the significant milestones achieved by the program so far.

Young Planner of the Year was awarded to Laura Oakley – a former oncology nurse turned healthy built environment advocate and urban planner – for her “unique pairing of nursing and planning experience to the health policy sector”.

Ms Oakley works as a planner at the Heart Foundation and writes for its Heathy Active by Design newsletter, in which she promotes the positive impact good planning can have on human health and wellbeing.

Coffs Harbour City Council was recognised with the From Plan to Place award for its successful implementation of the Jetty4Shores Revitalisation master plan, which saw a “a rundown foreshore park” transformed in to a “multi award-winning, inclusive and vibrant community space”.

The development was completed in late 2017 and has been complemented by a series of councils-run activities, such as weekly farmers’ markets, evening carnivals and culinary events.

Isabel Virgona’s pipeline for the next generation of planners took out the President’s Award. It looked at how the industry could take advantage of new Australian K-10 Geography Syllabus, which includes a focus on urban planning for the first time.

The project recommended ways to bridge this educational foundation with training and recruitment opportunities to bring young people into the profession.

“What’s not to like about that!” Ms Grant commented.

Full list of PIA NSW award winners

Planning Campion

Martin Hill, HillPDA Consulting

Best Planning Ideas – Small Project

Penrith City Council for Open Space Reinvestment Project – Erskine Park

Best Planning Ideas – Large Project

Sydney Metro for Sydney Metro Northwest skytrain

Hard Won Victory

Penrith City Council for Open Space Reinvestment Project – Erskine Park

Outstanding Student Project

Joint Winner: Isabel Virgona for Planning Education in NSW School Geography Curriculum – get them while they’re young!
Joint Winner: Estelle Grech for Taking a walk in her shoes: Understanding the experience of culturally diverse, migrant women in the public spaces of Western Sydney

Improving Planning Processes and Practices

Greater Sydney Commission for Bringing the vision to life: Implementing the Greater Sydney Region Plan

Public Engagement and Community Planning

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Open Space Team, AECOM, JOC Consulting, Being Agency and Morpht for Everyone Can Play: A Guideline to Create Inclusive Playspaces

From Plan to Place

Coffs Harbour City Council for The Coffs Harbour Jetty4Shores Revitalisation Project

Cutting Edge Research and Teaching
Robert Freestone, Gethin Davison and Richard Hu for Designing the Global City: Design Excellence, Competitions and the Remaking of Central Sydney

Young Planner of the Year

Laura Oakle, Heart Foundation

Planner of the Year

Stephanie Barker, Greater Sydney Commission

President’s Award

Isabel Virgona for Planning Education in NSW School Geography Curriculum – get them while they’re young!

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