An award-winning project in Rolleston shows the benefit of joined-up planning, says David Allan.
Selwyn District Council, Boffa Miskell and Global Leisure Group recently won the New Zealand Planning Institute’s Best Practice Award for Excellence in Strategic Planning and Guidance for their work on masterplans for the Rolleston town centre and Foster Recreation Park. These plans were Identified as key priorities for Selwyn District Council given Rolleston’s projected growth over the next 20 years, and the rapidly-changing and highly-pressured post-earthquake environment. Council recognised that the evolution of the town centre and the new 42 hectare park was essential to provide a social and economic heart for the town and district.
The three organisations were acutely aware the community was highly stressed. This was especially the case with the many sports clubs in the area which were relying on volunteer management and administration during a time of massive growth in membership.
The impacts of the earthquakes and numerous other issues confronting the residents of Rolleston − many of them recent settlers from Christchurch – were leading to widespread information overload.
The need to penetrate this clutter and have the two masterplans understood was a key driver in the search for a better delivery strategy. The project teams turned to joined-up planning in order to provide a single story and picture for the town centre and Foster Recreation Park − and especially the Rolleston Reserve.
Originally, different departments within council had been driving the two separate but related planning efforts.
The integrated approach to planning was the result of an effective leadership team of professionals spanning the three organisations and across departments within council.
The Foster Recreation Park Masterplan brief included considering the future of two other major reserves within Rolleston − Brookside Park (a recently established sports park) and Rolleston Reserve (the historic and spiritual home of sport and recreation in the township). This was a critical factor as the future of the Rolleston Reserve bridged the town centre and Foster Recreation Park planning projects.
The methodology used was relatively standard in its approach to delivering the masterplans. There was, however, one major exception. The two project teams committed early to delivering a joint planning solution to meet the pressing challenges of the faster-than-planned-for growth in Rolleston due to the earthquakes.
A major key to success was the flat management approach taken within, and between, the two project teams. This was reflected in a flexible and iterative approach rather than adhering to the predetermined tasks and timelines of the originally separate project plans. The presence of common personnel and ‘plenary’ sessions involving both project teams to deal with cross-over issues enabled the two groups to operate as a single project team in delivering coordinated masterplans.
The project teams each had a separate project reference group working in parallel, but to different timetables. Strong leadership and management by the project teams allowed them to resist time pressures and maintain a ‘single picture’ approach to communicating the two masterplans to the community. The two project reference groups were integral components providing regular critical feedback as the planning work moved through the phases.
The coordinated approach, in which residents and impacted organisations could see the whole picture, helped the masterplans gain strong endorsement from the community. This is particularly notable as the plans included a significant change in land use / purpose of the Rolleston Reserve. This change had been a highly contentious issue during an earlier attempt by council to establish a new town centre.
This time, impacted organisations accepted the staged relocation of several long-standing users to the new Foster Recreation Park and to Brookside Park. Sporting codes including football, rugby, softball, tennis, cricket, netball and touch are all active in the area. Such groups accepted the idea of sharing appropriate core facilities with other sporting codes in a hubbing system rather than having to rely on individual facilities for each single type of sport.
The Rolleston experience illustrates the benefits of joined-up planning through looking beyond the horizon of a particular silo within council. The benefit of the project teams working in a synchronised manner was identified through the initial scoping phase where a global view was taken to identify cross-over issues and opportunities within the council planning programme.
The flat structure adopted reflected the hand-in-glove approach of the two planning disciplines − urban planning and design, and landscape and recreation. Both were focused on integrated and cohesive delivery of the two priority projects in Rolleston.
The joined-up planning for the town centre and recreation reserves in Rolleston provides a model for integrated planning across two or more related, but separate, projects to achieve greater community endorsement and an enhanced outcome for the community. LG
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?
• It is important to have the courage to depart from original timelines. Synchronise
planning efforts so the ‘whole picture’ can be laid out to the community at one time. Do
this even when under significant pressure to deliver in a post-earthquake environment.
• Adopt the principle early on that both projects are of equal importance in terms of
project management even though they are of different scale and cost.
• Ensure effective coordination of the two project teams by having some council and
consultant personnel in common on both teams. And adopt a flat management approach
within and across the project teams so work streams can easily be adjusted as needed.
• Adopt an integrated planning approach to boost efficiency − especially from a financial
point of view. This can be achieved by combining some aspects of consultation such
as drop-in sessions or joint hearings. By telling the whole story to the community you
are more likely to reduce controversy levels and less likely to need to focus additional
resources on ameliorating concerns.
HOW WE GOT COMMUNITY SUPPORT
• We engaged early with the community. For example, we held share-an-idea events and developed a needs assessment report.
• We undertook detailed consultation with affected landowners. Our consultants met individually with landowners to explain how the draft masterplans might impact on their property.
• We also consulted in detail with affected user organisations. This included our consultants meeting individually with stakeholders at several points of the process to identify their needs and desired future state, assess options, and then
explain how the draft masterplans might impact on their future use of reserves.
• We had a joint development approach to both masterplans. We had separate project teams and governance arrangements but linked them together through project managers and consultants, and held regular meetings between the two teams.
• Technology helped us to clearly explain the masterplans. This included an animated fly-through video, and a detailed and animated transportation model to help people visualise the proposals so they could participate meaningfully in the planning process. We also prepared a series of simple, non-technical plans to help explain what community members could expect to see at major milestones in each masterplan.
• We focused on collaborative efforts, bringing together a range of disciplines and a number of diverse − and conflicting − public and private sector aspirations. This enabled us to create supportable masterplans, and won the backing of key stakeholders and local residents.
FIND OUT MORE
Download the masterplans and supporting documents on http://tinyurl.com/pgfromp