Two of the best names in urban planning took out high honours at a national awards night held in Perth recently, and both are from Griffith University.

Dr Tony Matthews from Griffith’s Cities Research Institute accepted the award for Cutting Edge Research and Teaching for his role in the popular radio show and podcast The Urban Squeeze, and graduate Thomas Gardiner won the prestigious Young Planner of the Year award at the Planning Institute of Australia’s (PIA) National Awards for Planning Excellence on May 9.

The Urban Squeeze accolade follows hot on the heels of the podcast’s wins last November at the PIA Queensland event where it also won the Cutting Edge Research and Teaching gong as well as the Overall Award for Planning Excellence.

The podcast’s two seasons of 28 episodes featured Dr Matthews and former Griffith academic Professor Jason Byrne, and were broadcast live on Matt Webber’s ABC Drive show from 2016-2017. Dr Matthews said there is a strong possibility of a third season in the future.

“The strength and success of The Urban Squeeze is that we demystified a huge number of questions about why certain things happen in cities and don’t happen in cities, and it spoke very directly with people who live that experience,” Dr Matthews said.

Dr Tony Matthews with his award for podcast The Urban Squeeze.

“Questions like why are you stuck in traffic? Why are you living in an area that is not well serviced by community infrastructure? Why are we building so many apartments? What’s the value of greenspace? So it really spoke to those people living those experiences in the urban setting, which is 90% of people in this country.

“It’s always a pleasure to be able to talk about what you do professionally to a wider audience and have them actually be interested. And to now get the professional recognition with these awards tells us that our peers like what we’re doing also.”

Thomas Gardiner graduated Griffith in 2014 with a double degree – a Bachelor in Urban Environment and Planning and Bachelor in Science and Environment – with first class honours.

He is now the Senior Planner for Rockhampton Regional Council and oversees a small team in the review of development applications lodged to council.

“A big part of my role is delivering positive planning outcomes for the Rockhampton region, and the core of trying to deliver those good outcomes is engagement, working with the community and involving all stakeholders,” Mr Gardiner said.

“I had no idea I was getting the award until they announced my name on stage. While the award itself was a really good personal accolade, it was a really strong confirmation from the institute that you can do wonderful things in your career as a young professionals.

“It was very nice for the Planning Institute to recognise that young planners can go out into the region and advance their careers.”

About Planning Institute Australia

Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) is the national body representing planning and the planning profession. Through education, communication and professional development, it is the pivotal organisation serving and guiding thousands of planning professionals in their role of creating better communities.

Urban Squeeze Radio Show
Jason Byrne MPIA and Tony Matthews PIA (Assoc.) (Griffith University), Karin Adam and Matt Webber (ABC Radio, Gold Coast, 91.7FM)
Award Winner – Cutting Edge Research & Teaching
2018 National Judges’ Citation

The Urban Squeeze radio show is a truly visionary and innovative approach to teaching methodology, as well as a unique means of engagement with the community on the value of planning.

The radio show shifts discussion with the community about land use planning from the emotive, parochial and reactive; to a considered and informed baseline understanding of the drivers, context and theories that shape planning practice. Coupled with its role of engaging research students in dialogue on planning practices and principles in an informative and easily accessible media, the carefully curated radio show boasts a diverse audience of approximately 26,000 listeners per episode, plus past episodes are available on the internet.

The radio show, soon to enter its third season, entertains plentiful opportunities for future application and ongoing engagement with planning practitioners, scholars and the community which is applicable in the local, state and national contexts. In an award category with excellent entries from around Australia, the Urban Squeeze Radio Show is a truly deserving recipient of this award.

Thomas Gardiner

Thomas Gardiner MPIA
Award Winner – Young Planner of the Year
2018 National Judges’ Citation

Planners of all ages, but especially those beginning their careers, are well advised to look to Thomas Gardiner for an example of the rich diversity of professional and personal experiences that regional employment can provide.

Thomas demonstrates a level of lateral thinking as a young planner, which in some ways may have become counter-intuitive to the direction of mainstream planning thinking. This broad perspective to both his craft and the way he builds professional relationships comes at a time when many rural areas are challenged by dealing with a deepening complexity of issues around globalisation, economic diversity and the health of rural communities. Notwithstanding these challenges, Thomas’s natural tendency to remain positive and “hit the ground running” when presented with unique opportunities, has already given him the knowledge and experience to speak with authority on rural and regional issues. His presentations as a young planner practising in the regions convey the passion and insight which have made people listen and realise some of the virtues of a strong regional and rural sector, as well as the benefits that come from practicing in this field.

Thomas has achieved highly in his time in the profession and will undoubtedly achieve much more to the benefit of all. He has had a significant impact on those he has met and worked with, and he has demonstrated initiative and drive, well above what may be expected from his role in a regional setting.