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 Engagement and Planning Manager, Spark

Graeme McCarrison is a planning professional using his passion for building collaborative partnerships between government (central and local) and infrastructure sector to deliver win-win outcomes.  In his role with Spark, NZ’s largest digital service provider, he works nationwide providing specialist input to planning policy development, resource consent applications and legislative/regulatory changes.  Graeme is actively involved in critical infrastructure with focus on our fast-changing future.  Disruptive technologies, environmental and international change will require a profession that is agile and responsive.

“In my view, times are changing. As professional and trusted advisors we are challenged to rethink what it means for infrastructure now and in the future.  How can we set forth a strategic direction that takes hold of emerging opportunities ensuring a relevant, dynamic industry?

Graeme has worked in both the public sector (Auckland local government including Director/GM roles) and private sector (as a self-employed consultant; within a larger consultancy; and most recently for six years in the telecommunications industry).  Board member of the New Zealand Planning Institute

Graeme works across New Zealand providing him with a unique insight into what is happening in planning and infrastructure nationally.  He played important roles in achieving the E26 Infrastructure chapter in Auckland’s Unitary Plan and working group developing the National Planning Standard for Infrastructure.  In 2015 he received a Planning Practice Award for the ‘Collaborative consenting framework between Chorus and Auckland Mana Whenua’ and was recognised with a NZPI Distinguished Service Award.

Graeme has enabled transformational change within organisations that improve customer service and has skills in ‘fail-fast to learn systems’.  


Eyes Open - Swimming with PlanTech

We as human beings have incredible brains. Rapid change, the generation of data at ever faster rates every second of every minute. The covid pandemic triggered rapid digital transformation well beyond previous predictions, but it has been happening around us for a long while.


"My supposition for the presentation is that "Planning" has a lot to shout out about, but the profession needs to get itself in the PlanTech swim lane."


Evolving my own planning self to remain relevant depends on curiosity for technology, understanding bias I bring, risks and effects on culture and people of technology. But also having confidence and knowledge as to when and what technology is appropriate. I am no-technology expert, but I do know what expertise we need to welcome as part our planning/environment team especially as we move into a new Resource Management System. My challenge to you is: "When did you last reflect on what does it takes to be a "planning professional relevant in our rapidly changing world" and what is the place of PlanTech?"


Focusing on Technology but especially "PlanTech" with a lens of curiosity and framework of a planning professional lets us explore the opportunities of tech to support our professional advice in the face of rapid change, overloaded with data and seemingly disruptive waves of technology. We are challenged to make sense of what is happening, its relevance, the value, constraints, or opportunities of the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data that potentially useful to make the best planning decisions in our dynamic world. Are we being held back by the sense of conspiracy, erosion of privacy, unease and maybe anxiety as to what is the impact on the profession, as data scientists, innovators, other professions, and the global companies invest in technologies such as artificial intelligence to analyse data used in decisions on our environment?


I believe we must embrace, access, use and develop new technology to expand the planning toolbox as we face complex challenges such as climate change, resilience, rethinking urban space and being inclusive of the diversity of communities/people.


Supporting the Future of Planners, under the amazing leadership of Christine Coste, NZPI launched PlanTechNZ. PlanTechNZ is a NZPI special interest group. PlanTechNZ comprises planners who are passionate about the role of emerging technologies in the future of planning practice and helping the profession to engage and feel confident with digital technologies. "Our aim is to bring planning and resource management practitioners together to make the most of these new technologies in our profession, and in order to achieve better outcomes for our communities and the environment."


Let me introduce you to the PlanTech journey/swim lane to exploreopportunities and limitations. We need to be curious, awareness of bias/perceptions to evolve "Planning" to ensure we continue play our significant part in shaping the future of New Zealand. "Tech is happening, it's time for us to actively join the fun in the pool."

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