Rethinking Community in Planning: A Review of the Role of Planners and Citizens in Building Strong Communities.

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesis


Presently planning operates within a community governance paradigm where communities and planners must learn to govern cooperatively. The thesis argues how planners conceptualise community within this paradigm is vital. Conventionally, planners physically define community as a substantive grouping of citizens associated with a territorial jurisdiction. Today, cascading public policy and strategic spatial plans extend the definition to conceptualise strong community as an act of citizenship. Specifically planners anticipate strong communities as a core principle of strategic growth management where more people live closer together within multi-centred metropolitan-areas. Arguably, planners exhibit a weak understanding of the political dynamic of community. Poor translations of community complexities from scholarly studies into policies and planning programmes exhibit this political deficit in community definitions and strong community principles. Given urban challenges now and ahead, we need wise and robust political review of citizen-community relations within community governance.
An Opening Narrative sets the scene for investigating whether the prevailing community discourse in planning serves the emerging community governance paradigm. Influenced by planning thinkers including Flyvbjerg and Pløger, the thesis re-examines the communicative dynamics and socio-political context of the strong communities. A theoretical paradox between individualism and collectivism is explored. A case study and discourse analysis of strong community depicts prevailing thinking community in the interdependent policy domains and geographical scales expressed in plan-making and implementing urban intensification.
The thesis revises the political logic and limits of community toward proposing an alternative view of how planners might approach community and face 21st century challenges. After reviewing the theoretical work of Jean-Luc Nancy and the influences of philosophy, geography, and sociology, the thesis proposes a dynamic alternative view of community that rethinks the role of planners and citizens in building strong community. The pilot urban intensification project in suburban Panmure, Auckland illustrates the ramifications of the conventional community model. Thesis findings suggest that planners recognise the value of their role, yet they often default to comfortable technical calculations, while notions of citizen-community relations remain unchallenged. The thesis concludes by recommending learning opportunities concerning ways of being that are vital for developing flourishing communities in a collaborative manner.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Auckland
  • Gunder, Michael, Supervisor, External person
  • Fookes, Tom, Supervisor, External person
Award date6 May 2010
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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