Planning postgraduate to present at prestigious U-21 conference

27 November 2009

A postgraduate planning student from The University of Auckland will present her research on “radical planning” at this year’s Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference in Australia.

Emma Fergusson is completing her Master of Planning Practice at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries (NICAI). She intends to begin doctoral study in Planning in 2010. With a particular interest in urban sustainability, Emma says she is drawn to the challenge of making cities more sustainable through the role of their built environment, governance, physical and social infrastructure, energy and the management of natural and physical resources.

Her current research investigates the development of “Transition Towns” in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Emerging from the United Kingdom in the last five years, the Transition Towns movement is a strategy for building sustainable, resilient communities. This so-called Transition culture has found considerable purchase in this country, with groups proliferating across New Zealand.

Emma’s analysis focuses on the Transition concept as a form of “insurgent” or radical planning: she posits that Transition culture is in some ways an oppositional movement that seeks to address some of the concerns usually dealt with by local government planning processes in more innovative ways. These may include community development, building and social infrastructure, environmental protection and enhancement, and managing resources and waste.

The theme of this year’s U-21 conference is “Sustainable Cities for the Future”—a topic that aligns well with Emma’s research.

“I am confident the conference will be highly relevant to both my current and future research and will provide an amazing opportunity for me to share my research with my peers, and to learn from people working towards sustainable cities from a range of disciplinary perspectives,” says Emma.

Universitas 21 is a prestigious international network of 21 leading research-intensive universities in thirteen countries. Collectively, its members enrol over 650,000 students and have over 2 million alumni. The network's purpose is to facilitate collaboration and cooperation between the member universities and to create opportunities for them on a scale that none of them would be able to achieve operating independently or through traditional bilateral alliances.

The U21 “Sustainable Cities for the Future” Graduate Research Conference runs 29 November – 5 December in Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia. For information visit