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Robotics, broadband, 3D printing: NZPI looks at how tech is changing our cities

The benefits of technology and how major planning issues are affecting New Zealand are featuring in discussions at the NZPI annual conference in Dunedin this week. More than 500 planners, resource managers, urban designers and environmental practitioners from all over the country are attending the event.

The conference focuses on the latest online tools that are being developed to help planners, regional and district councils and other consent agencies drive efficiencies and accessibility though innovations such as online district and city plans, according to NZPI.

Susan Houston, NZPI chief executive, says at present New Zealand is the easiest place in the world to start a new business and second for ease of doing business according to the World Bank’s latest Doing Business Report. New Zealand is also recognised for its planning innovation, recently listed as the 15th most innovative economy in the world (2015 Global Innovation Index).

“We are seeing the convergence of cloud computing, mobility and data analytics. The tech sector is the fastest growing sector in New Zealand and now the fourth largest exporter ($6.5billion), employing around 100,000 people.

“Tech, in its broadest sense, offers opportunities for all of New Zealand and has the ability to transform and disrupt both traditional sectors and create new industries, business models and markets. Other New Zealand centres especially Christchurch are also performing strongly in the tech space, which is great to see. Careful planning will really help drive the future of New Zealand’s economic growth," Houston says.

She says online tools are being used for e-plans, submissions, plan changes, tracking appeals, consenting and consent histories.

“District and regional planners are benefitting from geographical information systems. As exponentially growing technologies start to become more visible Kiwis will see more robotics, 3D printing, electronics and coding entering schools as parents realise how important technology will be for their children's future planning,” she says.

According to Houston, NZPI expects to see an increasing public awareness and desire to engage in planning discussions about the role of technology throughout New Zealand, particularly with the advancement of broadband in the country.

“The introduction of fast broadband has been one of the biggest tech-digital advances in New Zealand. Ultra-fast broadband is essential for New Zealand's economy as without connectivity we would be unable to compete in a connected world. The fact that we are deploying it faster than any other country in the world means we will have an opportunity that other countries won't have for a little while,” she says. 

Speakers at NZPI’s Dunedin event includes Building, Housing and Environment minister Nick Smith, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.