Urban Planner — Jeremy Reynolds

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Maybe I was destined to be a geographer. My father taught Geography at university in England. I could always see the wide range of challenges and interests it addressed. I liked its holistic nature.

I went to university in Bristol, England, and was fortunate to have first-rate instructors. I focused on the human side of Geography; that is, how people related to urban environments and so on.

Having graduated in the early 1970s, I applied for many jobs; finally, the Borough of Hackney in East London employed me as an urban planner. They had serious issues about housing re-development—15,000 people needing housing, and buildings badly weakened after World War II.

I was able to use and develop my talents there, especially under the guidance of the senior staff. In three years, I was managing a staff of ten; we were responsible for millions of pounds of spending each year, and I was only 25! The days of my university life were bearing fruit.

My networks and skills were built upon during this time by a part-time Graduate Diploma in Town Planning. All through my working life I have valued the learning I did at university, especially about how to use numbers (statistics). One of my lecturers used to say, “Quantification is a great aid to thinking clearly”. How true this is!

While working at Hackney I met an Aussie! We married and decided to settle in Australia. I received an assisted passage ($25) to come to Australia—migration was cheaper than a holiday! I secured a job with the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), and I've worked for Victorian Government Departments since then.

My main work between1979 and 1992 was on metropolitan and state planning strategies. One major area was the provision of recreational facilities (Jells Park, Maribyrnong Park, Yarra Valley/Westerfolds and Gardiner's Creek developments). This involved balancing a lot of environmental and social issues. Again, statistical analysis was invaluable in predicting social trends and needs. In the early 1980s, with Melbourne rapidly expanding, many issues to do with urban consolidation arose. I began to use national census data to produce reports on all types of urban topics.

I am a co-founder and member of the editorial board of Urban Policy and Research (1982–present); this keeps me in touch with academic thinking and trends around the world. I'm proud too, of reports such as The Challenge of Change (MMBW, 1979), Melbourne Facts and Figures (1988) and Victoria: A Place to Live (1992).

As Governments have changed, or changed focus, our research energies have moved in different directions. However, at all times people have needed to review reports with good demographic information to help them plan. They need to know the story behind the numbers. Due to this need, we have fifteen staff researching Victorian requirements for infrastructure, and marketing those ideas to a wide range of interest groups; for example, politicians, social researchers, retailers, real estate agents and recreation experts.

We need to be able to look ten to twenty years ahead, and balance hundreds of competing needs, all in a cost-aware context.

Geography has been good for me, often challenging, exciting and fun. I'd say to someone young and interested in Geography, 'Have a go! Do some work experience and see what you think'.

Jeremy Reynolds' published work includes:Time Series—Victoria in Time, Towns in Time, Suburbs in Time,Victoria in Future; and From Donut City to Cafe Society.