Planning Education and Practice in New Zealand

The first steps in considering Planning education in New Zealand

If you are interested in studying city planning in New Zealand, there are some things you need to think about before you apply. Firstly, before choosing the university, you need to see whether the university is accredited by the New Zealand Planning Institute which is the acting planning institute for the country. If you click on Accredited Degrees under Become a Planner on the website, you will see all the major universities that have accreditation to teach city planning. As you can see, there are five main Universities that teach Planning in New Zealand.

  • These accredited Universities include Auckland University, Massey University, Otago University, Lincoln University, and Waikato Universtiy.
  • Although all of them are sought after, the two main universities most students prefer to study planning are: The University of Auckland in Auckland city and the University of Otago in Dunedin city. This is because of the World Ranking of these two universities – Auckland University is ranked 84 in the QS World Rankings and Otago University is in the top 180 Universities of the world.

Related: Tips before starting a Planning degree, Urban Planning – A Largely Unknown Profession

The focus of the Universities

Although rankings are not everything, they determine the major source of choices, teaching, and facilities these Universities offer.  It is very difficult and prestigious to be a university in the top 100 Universities of the world and so obviously, Auckland University is one of the most sought after from Planning education in New Zealand. However, each of these five universities will get students a planning job around the world as they are all accredited and provide the major source of city planning education and working planning professionals.

Role of Planners

Each of them also has a different specialisation, for instance, Auckland has a design and architecture perspective and specialisation of Planning as it is the country’s largest Architecture and Planning department. But, on the contrary, Otago and Massey Universities focus on the policy, research and writing aspect of Planning such as the RMA and Resource Consenting more than design or GIS or AutoCAD which is the case of Auckland University. Although design education is part of all planning programmes, they do not form the major part of the course which was the case for Otago University, where I did my Master of Planning. Because of my writing, research background and policy preference, I chose Otago even though I was admitted to both Auckland and Otago Universities. That said, I have many friends who prefer the design side of planning as it is thought to be very creative and hands on. So, depending on your preference, you can choose the best option based on your individuality and personality.

Planning as a profession

New Zealand planning is a promising profession, which pays very highly (around 25 dollars an hour) and extremely sought after. It is very competitive to get into the top universities and they need a high average in undergraduate studies to get an offer at the Master’s level. Because of its good pay and promising professional prospects, people do not aim for higher studies after becoming a professional planner in New Zealand. This is similar to most cases in the developed countries where city planning is a highly valued profession, including the USA, which also has this accredited system.

Most Planning jobs in New Zealand are divided into resource consenting or policy aspects of city planning and the environment. Resource consent is a term used to describe a legal document that needs to be signed before any planning can be implemented in the nation. So, the planners need to write a detailed document before it can be regulated in the city, having a primary role in determining what can be built and what can’t be built in the nation. So, unlike the developing countries, where planning is a growing profession, New Zealand already has an established system for planning. But finding a job is also very challenging and takes a lot of interview practices because of the competitive market.

Related: Jane Jacob’s vision for citiesHow Urban Economics drive Economic Development


New Zealand Planning like most countries offers a wide variety of topics and prospects that you can choose from. If you want to pursue planning or are considering it, then New Zealand can be a very good option. It is positive if you are looking for a stable job and want to earn a good living. For many, resource consenting is not the best job they would like to do for a living, so you will also need to think about what suits you best and what your main goal of finding a job really is. After some soul searching, you can apply for a planning education in NZ and see what works best for you! Good luck!

Note: This article has inputs from Author based on her experience while completing her studies at one of the above-mentioned university.

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