Stuart Moseley – Chief Executive, Victorian Planning Authority

What attracted you to the industry (and when)?
The opportunity to shape urban environments and help deliver better places for people to live, work and play. The industry works at the intersection between the economy, communities and the environment – it’s all about getting the balance right, putting the pieces together and creating memorable built environments. I love that combination. I have worked in the industry since leaving university (too long ago to be specific) and have enjoyed the diversity and immediacy of the industry across five state and territory jurisdictions, all spheres of government and the private sector.

What do you love most about the industry?
The urban development sector builds the suburbs and neighbourhoods that we need in order to prosper and thrive. It’s a proactive industry that finds solutions and gets on with the job. It’s diverse, pragmatic and outcomes-oriented, with plenty of challenges.

What do you consider your greatest challenge (in the industry)?
Delivering great results requires that all stakeholders own the process and the outcomes – this takes real effort, but is essential if we want to change our cities for the better. For example, how do we get all agencies and service providers on the same page? How do we bring the community with us on a journey of change?  How do we balance competing interests across the economy, community and environment sectors?  The industry deals with these challenges every day, and must work through them to get an outcome every time.

Biggest regret?
Historically, not being able to persuade the engineers at a particular (unnamed) South Australian council to allow trees to be planted in the parking lane of streets in a new estate – meaning that the opportunity to create shade and green the streets was lost. It’s something that has been done quite often (think of the avenue of plane trees on the way into Bendigo) but seems to be all too hard these days.

Worst trend?
Planning has spent a long time designing cities around the motor car rather than around people – a trend thankfully being reversed in our new suburbs as we build for cycling, walking and public transport as well as cars.

Best change?
The best change is the strengthening emphasis on design quality in new developments – on the urban fringe and in our renewal precincts. More and more, the industry is recognising that good design adds value – it’s not an afterthought that costs money, it’s a precondition that delivers value.

If you had the power, how would you improve the process?
I would find a magic formula to shorten and improve our processes so they deliver better outcomes sooner. There is no doubt that planning laws are too complex and processes are too opaque. While much good work is being done to redress this, we need to think through the role of regulation and stop ourselves being dragged too far along the curve of diminishing returns.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about planning and building?
I think people overestimate how much control planners have, and underestimate the influence of other urban professions, particularly engineering. When people see an outcome they don’t like or don’t understand,  they too often say “planners are to blame”, when in fact it’s the decisions of a whole lot of players that have delivered the result. Planners are important, but they don’t rule the world.

If building tomorrow, what feature would you most like incorporated in your home?
Smart building technology, especially music streaming to every room.

What tips would you give for future-proofing a home?
Make sure the rooms are a functional size and there is ample storage space. A lot of things can be adjusted over time. But if the spaces are wrong to start with, then your options are very limited. Think about what your priorities are for the space you can afford – don’t opt for that third bathroom and the cinema room unless you can afford them without giving up something else more important.

What do you think building a home will be like in 2030?
I think there will be many more choices in many more areas than we have now, in terms of land size, dwelling type and construction technology – the ageing of the baby boomer generation will make sure of that

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