Planning for a career
Written by Patricia Paolini, Business Development Manager - Training
As a newly-appointed administration officer for the planning department of one of Queensland’s largest councils, Tracey Douglas didn’t realise her new role would be the start of a fulfilling career in local government planning.
She had little to no knowledge of local government and therefore set her sights on gaining as much knowledge as she could of her new role and department.
Tracey quickly learned the about important role council planners undertake in helping to set the overall direction for development in local communities through the application of planning controls. She gained knowledge of how planning schemes set out plans for managing and guiding growth and change in each local government area across Queensland and regulate what new development should occur, where and how.
She found that planning departments are responsible for setting the vision and then ensuring that it is achieved through the application of planning schemes. Along with planning schemes, legislation like the Queensland Planning Act 2016 and the Planning Regulation 2017 help govern regional planning in Queensland.
With her keen interest in planning, Tracey says she was provided the opportunity to undertake the LGAQ’s (now Peak Services) Diploma in Statutory Planning.
“I completed the Diploma and thoroughly enjoyed the content, the learning and the idea that planning contributes to the sustainability of an area and was excited to have found a career that I could pursue in a field that touched many things I am passionate about.
“Following successful completion of the Diploma, my manager suggested I continue study and undertake a planning degree. I immediately investigated it to see if I could make it work as, at the time, I was a 40-year-old single mother with two young children and a full-time job. How would I manage? But I found a planning degree I could undertake online through the University of New England, I was accepted and given credit for two courses/credits due to my completion of the LGAQ diploma.”
Tracey commenced her studies part-time and completed two courses per semester plus another during the summer semester. She says juggling her studies wasn’t the only challenge she took on.
“In 2008, about three months into the degree, I applied for and was successful in gaining a new role as a Development Planner for Moreton Bay Regional Council. They also provided study leave options as part of my employment which allowed me to take leave for exams or any other study-related activities.”
Tracey’s new role as a Development Planner involved low risk development applications, which gave her the opportunity to study after work and listened to lectures whilst travelling to and from work.
“In the final year, I opted to do a full-time study load (while working full-time) just to get the degree finished and I graduated in 2012 with a GPA [grade point average] of 6.07. Thanks to the support and opportunities I received from Moreton Bay Regional Council and an understanding family, I was able to complete my degree in five years part-time instead of eight years part-time. The Diploma I completed through the LGAQ, provided valuable credits toward my tertiary studies.”
With her freshly completed planning degree in hand, Tracey was now able to work on more challenging development applications such as the North East Business Park, North Harbour and Riverbank, apartment buildings, environmentally significant developments, and industrial and commercial developments. Her success and achievements led her to work with Council’s Strategic Planning Unit, drafting scheme amendments for a major amendment to the Planning Scheme and Planning Scheme Policies.
Tracey says a change of employer five years ago has continued to bring exciting challenges.
“After so many wonderful opportunities at Moreton Bay Regional Council, my family moved to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 2016, where I successfully gained the role of Senior Development Planner at Sunshine Coast Council, leading the FastTrack team. The team has grown from three officers to seven, and I am the Project Director and delegate for applications/concurrence referrals that come to our team.
“I have been encouraged to take leadership roles, however I am very happy keeping my head in the planning assessment work which I initially found a passion for in my first administration officer role at council”.
Tracey says she’s grateful for the opportunities that have come her way – and that her successes have rubbed off on her two sons.
“Had I not taken the generous opportunity to study the LGAQ Planning Diploma, I would never have found my passion for local government planning. My only regret is that I didn’t find it sooner or even know that such a profession existed.
“Whilst studying with a young family was challenging, I believe it provided a fantastic role model for my two boys who both had an expectation from a young age that they would attend university, with my eldest son achieving a business degree and my youngest son now working his way through his planning degree too!”
Peak Services will be releasing the latest Planning Diploma in 2022. Please contact us to register your interest at email@example.com or call us on 07 3000 2148.