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What makes a good Planner?

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

There are a lot of decisions to make when you’re undertaking land development. If you’re an architect or engineer, choosing the right people to work with is so critical to the overall experience your customer will receive. Getting the right Planner can significantly contribute to the successful outcome of the project. As an unregulated industry, not all Planners are the same. There is a wide diversity in the type of service you’ll receive, the skill, experience and knowledge.

As discussed earlier in the month in our blog – What do planners do anyway? Planners provide up front advice to ensure the project achieves best outcomes. Best outcomes are different for different people and developments; it may be that you want to achieve maximum yield, that the market desires high- end development, or you want something that specifically meets your family’s needs. It’s important that your Planner listens to you/your client and knows what the goals are and advises on how to best achieve those.

Good Planners will place these development goals in the context of the objectives and policies of district and regional plans and navigate the sometimes-complex rules and standards to help guide the development. The resource consent process is much more than box ticking and filling in forms. We know that most people don’t like the resource consent process, but we do! We love making the complex simple and taking the stress out of the process for our clients.

Are you looking for a Planner to guide your development through the resource consent process? Maybe you’re a developer and looking for someone new to help you, or you’re an architect who doesn’t want to waste their time on the complex resource consent process. We’re pretty sure resource consents aren’t your passion! It’s important that you choose wisely- and we’ve compiled this article to help you in your decision making.

Qualified and Experienced Planners

Unfortunately, Planning is an unregulated industry, meaning anyone can say that they’re a Planner irrespective of their qualifications or experience. This means that someone can say they’ll provide planning advice and write the Assessment of Effects (AEE), but they may not actually have the qualifications or experience necessary to do it.

Experience is also crucial. How many years has the person been practising Planning? What types of developments have they been involved in? A good first port of call is their website- what type of projects have they been involved in? Who are their clients? Is that a good match with what you’re doing? What do their clients say?

Take the time to check the qualifications and experience of people you’re employing to help you, make sure they have the background knowledge and skills to add value to the project and actually guide you through the development process.

Professional Development: planning is a profession where best practice and legislation is often changing. It’s important to ensure that the Planners you’re using stay up to date with these changes and regularly do professional development. Old ideas and following old processes won't get you the result you want.

In-house Capacity: do you have specific deadlines and need a quick turnaround? If yes, you need to think about how much capacity the Planner has. What happens if they get sick, or unexpectedly have to work on another project? Do they have colleagues who can assist to ensure your timeframes are met? For land development, time delays cost money.

Just as important is the level of in-house experience. Will your project be passed on to someone fresh out of University when it really needs a senior Planner involved? What will the impact of this be on the preliminary discussions (where you really need to be identifying potential issues and reducing them by good design), the quality of your application and the time the Council spends processing the application? You need to remember that the better advice you get upfront, the more you can remove or reduce risks. Also, Councils charge on an actual time basis; if your application is poor Council staff will spend more time assessing it, and your costs will be higher.

The New Zealand Planning Institute

The New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) is the organisation in New Zealand representing professional Planners. It:

  • has a code of ethics that members are required to sign up to,

  • has requirements for professional development,

  • provides up to date planning news and mentoring.

Being a member of the NZPI is a good way of knowing that person has the skill and knowledge set to call themselves a professional Planner, and that they work in an ethical manner. Most Planners will advertise that they’re a member of the NZPI on their websites.


Although price is always an important aspect to look into when selecting a Planner, the old saying “pay peanuts and get monkeys” comes to mind! There should be a balance in selecting a Planner based on price along with all the other issues discussed above. Going ahead with someone who’s cheap can mean higher Council costs and a poor development outcome.


Does the Planner you’re looking at using have professional insurances? Of course, we’d all like to think insurance will never be required, but in those extreme situations it’s important to know the professional you’re using is properly insured.

So how does Planning Plus stack up?

Of course, you’d expect us to say we’re a good choice (and we definitely do!), but to put that in context, at Planning Plus we:

  • are team of qualified and experienced planners with have a combined 54 years of planning experience in both the private and public sectors. We all have a recognised planning or environmental degree (and in some cases more than one). More information about the team can be found in our “Who are we” section of our website. Planning Plus has extensive experience managing a wide range of projects in urban and rural areas including development in heritage areas, subdivision, commercial development and environmental projects including coastal protection.

  • in addition, our team also assists with processing resource consent applications for local government, which means we are up to date with processing practice and guidelines. Working closely with Council means we have valuable relationships which helps us navigate the processing of your resource consent through open and clear communication.

  • we abide by the New Zealand Planning Institute Code of Ethics; you can be assured we will always act honestly and ethically. In fact, this is one of our core values.

  • at Planning Plus we are lucky enough to have 4 Planners to assist our clients, comprising 3 senior planners with 10-20 years’ experience and one intermediate planner with 6 years’ experience; we only have experienced staff at Planning Plus. We use this experience to make sure our clients are getting excellent advice throughout the entire process, from initial investigations and advice through the report writing and application processes.

  • at Planning Plus we love professional development- short courses, webinars, industry presentations, caselaw- we love it all (well most of it!). Our team undertakes regular professional development to ensure we stay on top of changes to local, regional and national legislation and plan changes and are up to date with planning best practice.

  • at Planning Plus we provide a fair price which is in line with the complexities of your project and consistent with the high-quality planning services you will receive. We won’t request lots of variations or changes to the agreed fee; we always aim to reduce risks, hidden costs and council processing fees.

  • we always hold Professional Indemnity Insurance. In the unlikely event that issues arise you can be comfortable that we have the necessary insurances in place.

But don’t take our word for it, click here to see what our clients say about the planning services we provide.

Want more information?

We are a friendly team of highly experienced professionals specialising in resource consents and are here to take the stress out of the process for you! Contact us at or 09 427 9966. Or book a 20 minutes free online consultation.


As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings.

Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

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