People Stories

A legacy to help shape the future of Kiama

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 4 min read

Introducing Edward Paterson, Manager Strategic Planning at Kiama Municipal Council

Read on to discover more about Edward’s career background, his broad role and the significant project he undertook that will help shape the future of the Kiama region.

Q. What is your career background and what led you to Kiama?

A. I attended the University of New England and gained a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning. My initial role with local government was work experience with Cooma Monaro Council which is now Snowy Monaro Council. I also completed work experience with the ACT Territory Government at that time.

My work experience with Cooma turned into a permanent role, and then six years ago I got the opportunity with Kiama to take up a joint role in development assessment and strategic planning. After three years, I progressed up into a management role which is the role I am currently in.

Q. What does your current role involve?

A. When I explain it to people for the first time, I tell them I’m responsible for long term land use strategies. I do everything from detailed town centre master planning, 20-year vision strategies, housing strategies, right through to the really detailed design work – what do we want houses in the town to look like?

In a recent change, my role is also now encompassing our planning reform process. I’ve been tasked with ensuring the development assessment process is as efficient as it can be and aligns with everything that is going on a state government level.

So, how best do we provide advice? How do we run people through development assessment process?

When I went through Uni, I didn’t think I’d end up in the strategic space – it always seemed boring to me! But I started off in Development Assessment and very quickly became fascinated in the development of the policies that influence the outcomes. So rather than just assessing it on the ground, I work to get the strategy right.

Q. What do you enjoy the most about your role?

A. At the moment, I’m doing a lot in the economic development area, creating strategic plans around growing the economy so we’re not so reliant on tourism. I’m really enjoying applying my understanding of the NSW planning policies to how we make decisions locally – how does the policy work? How does the legislation work? And, what can we do within the policy to try and get something off the ground?

Someone mentioned to me early on in my career that in a smaller council you’ll get to do a million and one things, whereas at a big council you might get pigeon-holed and just focus on one thing. I really enjoy how broad my role is, the influence I’m able to have in so many areas.

Q. What do you think makes a successful local government employee?

A. In planning you need to have resilience and patience. You need to be willing to learn – you don’t necessarily need to have all the answers, but you need to know how to find them. So, you don’t need to know all the legislation, but you need to understand how to interpret it.

Q. What does a successful day look like to you?

A. To me, a successful day is where I’ve left things in a better position than when I started it. That’s why we get into the gig – to be public servants. You want to achieve something daily that’s for the benefit of the community, that’s what it comes down to. Anyone who is in this building, that’s why they’re here!

Q. What are you the proudest of achieving during your time at Kiama?

A. After the State Government’s requirement for each Council to develop local Strategic Planning Statement, I began work on Kiama’s long-term planning strategy. There hadn’t been a lot of work completed in this space at Kiama, so we were starting from a low base. I began in 2018, and finally competed our first ever planning statement in 2020.

It’s been such a huge benefit – both to me in my role, but to all of council. We’ve now got a direction that we’re heading in. Yes, it’s daunting because it lists all the things we need to do, but it sets a framework and 20-year action plan for how each department is going to work towards meeting the community’s aspirations for the area over the next 20 years.

That’s a legacy I’m proud to have achieved for the council and the community.

Planning professionals are consistently in high demand in local government. Whether you’re a planning graduate considering the first step on your career journey, or an experienced planning professional looking for your next opportunity – you can explore the roles on offer here!

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