Planners keen to share knowledge

More than 500 delegates from around New Zealand and Australia will attend the 2014 conference of the New Zealand Planning Institute, hosted by the Central Otago branch in Queenstown next week.

The theme this year is ''Mountains to the Sea'', which incorporates the issues of freshwater, land use and adaptation.

Institute chief executive Susan Houston said the way New Zealand manages its water and land use planning will be the focus of the conference and those issues are at the heart of the country's ''100% Pure'' image.

About 460 planners, resource managers, urban designers and environmental practitioners, plus 40 speakers and organisers, will attend seminars and hear speeches. They will stay in the Millennium Hotel and nearby Copthorne Hotel and Resort from April 2 to 5.

Co-convener Carey Vivian, of Queenstown, said highlights of the conference included the attendance of internationally known speakers and the opportunity for Queenstown planners to showcase district issues by taking delegates on a choice of nine field trips.

Speakers include Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark, one of New Zealand's leading ecologists, knighted in 2010 for his scientific contribution to conservation.

Prof Peter Newman, professor of sustainability at Curtain University, Perth, who led the development of Western Australia's Sustainability Strategy will speak. He is credited with saving, reviving and extending Perth's rail system.

Brent Toderian is the former chief planner of Vancouver, where his credits include 2010 Winter Olympics-related planning and design, the EcoDensity and Greenest City initiatives, plus waterfront and skyline strategies.

New Zealand's Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright will also speak.

''Part of the theme of the conference is about resilience and we thought the most resilient person in our district is [professional skydiver, base jumper and stunt man] Chuck Berry, someone who can face fear and come out smiling every time, so he's our motivational speaker and that will be really interesting too,'' Mr Vivian said.

The field trips include a Queenstown Bike Trail Tour and visits with the themes of affordable housing, ''Queenstown Growth'' and ''Grapes, Gold and Gasoline: A short history of development in Central Otago''.

Mr Vivian said the conference would benefit Queenstown planners by being able to share ideas and experiences and increase their knowledge.

''Any planner in the country will gain something out of the conference,'' he said.