Why this blog?
My original aim was to outline some principles of urban development. The postings have ranged a bit wider than that, but they're all connected one way or another. Hopefully they reflect a coherent view of the urban world, whether or not others share it.
Over the years I have consulted on development and policy matters throughout New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific, and parts of Asia. I have covered horticulture, forestry, farming, fishing, processing, manufacturing, and transport development and urban, regional, and industry strategy and policy in a variety of settings. In transport I have worked on passenger transport, freight, road and rail evaluation, and aviation.
As head of a consulting group and market research company and as an independent consultant I have worked with private and public companies, local, state and federal governments and inter-governmental agencies. I enjoyed five years as an academic, heading up the School of Resource and Environmental Planning at Massey University in Palmerston North, a small university city in New Zealand's North Island. Today I am based just north of Auckland, beyond the urban edge.
A focus on local government
This blog focuses on local government and urban development: local democracy, governance, and decision making; urban planning, urban form, and transport; urban and regional economic development. I focus a lot on what is happening in Auckland, New Zealand. While I have lived elsewhere at different times - the UK, Singapore, Sydney, I keep coming back to my roots.
In any case, Auckland makes a reasonable case study of some of the issues facing western cities. Some of what I have to say may have wider relevance.
A contrary viewpoint?
Today I'm more observer than participant. There is quite a lot going on that I disagree with - and that shows in my blogs. But I base my views on the evidence (as I see it), be it quantitative or qualitative, measurement or simply observation.
I struggle with some of what passes for conventional wisdom today, particularly in urban and resource planning. Conventional wisdom is, of course, another term for lazy thinking. One person's consensus is another's group think. And repetition doesn't necessarily constitute proof.
Consequently, I am interested in how knowledge is institutionalised; how formal and informal organisations - including professional associations, media, private companies, and political bodies - can make even ill-founded decisions seem credible by how they promote them, and how often.
Consequently, what may be no more than a particular point of view becomes an accepted "truth" based on repetition, proselytising (there I go again), and convergence of opinion rather than evidence and reason. In the policy and planning domain popular "lore" too often becomes unpopular "law".
At least let's debate
I will post views others disagree with. Please comment. Out of debate we might edge towards a truth. And we can expose prejudices to some disciplined thinking. Debate should also limit how far planners and policy-makers impose untoward regulations on places, communities, and people.
For me its time to pass a few opinions without being paid to do so. Hopefully if some of them ring true, and ring true beyond Auckland.