Beth Toon has been appointed in the planning and design consultancy’s newly created role designed to drive “sustainability and succession” across the Pan Asia operations.
She told The Fifth Estate that the consultancy currently employs around 160 people in its offices in Australia, China and South East Asia across three disciplines: planning, design and consultation.
According to Mrs Toon the plan is to leverage the firm’s base in Australia – with five offices in New South Wales and Queensland – to take on projects in new locations, including Tasmania where the company has been involved in developing the state’s housing strategy. The newly minted Hobart City Deal referenced some of the findings from the strategy, she said.
A critical area of work for the business is reviewing Local Environmental Plan for councils, and waterfront projects, mainly along the eastern seaboard.
This means the firm has notched up considerable experience in water sensitive both locally and in China, including projects such as the Jezzine Barracks in Townsville.
Going big on community engagement
Mrs Toon joined the business in 2013 as corporate marketing and communications manager and became the first female to be appointed to the board in 2016.
In that time, she’s observed a growing emphasis on community engagement in the industry.
“It‘s becoming part and parcel of this industry at a level never seen before.”
Although stakeholder engagement has always been a critical part of the industry, what’s new is the focus on communicating the messages of planners and technical staff in a way that the community can clearly understand.
Mrs Toon said that “talking slower” is not the answer – what’s needed is a unique skillset of inhouse communicators working side by side with technical staff to articulate the vision and outcomes of new projects to a range of different stakeholders.
With a background in communications, Mrs Toon said she hopes to bring a “people centred approach” to her position that exposes her to projects across all three of the company’s disciplines.
“So in terms of where Place Design Group is going, I want it to grow to the next level. We are still working through what this will look like but I’m looking forward to creating greater opportunities and depth and breadth across our teams.”