University of Otago Master of Planning

About MPlan


Class Exercise
A practical class exercise in group work

The two-year Master of Planning (MPlan) degree is a distinctive professional programme of course work and research, with a professional focus.

The local and regional dimensions of the public policy process are emphasised because this is the framework within which most societies are governed.

The objectives of the MPlan Programme are to provide an understanding and appreciation of:

  • the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of planning; 
  • approaches to resource management in modern and traditional societies, with particular reference to New Zealand and countries in the Asia-Pacific Region;
  • approaches towards urban planning; 
  • community participation in the planning process;
  • the environmental consequences of human activity and how to manage these; 
  • the political, legal and administrative context within which the activity of planning is carried out (with specific reference to the Resource Management Act in New Zealand);
  • professional skills and techniques relevant to the practice of planning.

The course is housed within the Geography Department. The Coordinator, a professionally qualified planner, and staff member of the Geography Department, is responsible for the day to day operation of the Programme. Teaching input is provided by staff from Geography and other departments (e.g. Law, Design, Surveying) as well as by external practitioners in relevant fields. Case studies and hands-on involvement in real planning situations are important elements of the programme. There is regular input from practicing planning professionals.



DN town belt

Dunedin from the town belt. The university campus is at the left of the photo. 

Diverse applicants sought

Emphasis is placed on attracting candidates from a wide range of academic backgrounds - not only those with a Geography Degree. Other disciplines from which our students are drawn include arts, science, law, Maori studies and commerce. This is because it is well recognised that a range of skills needs to be brought together to address environmental and community planning issues.


Class Size

To maintain close personal contact between staff and students, the two-year Masters course is offered as an intensive programme of teaching, project and research work with small class sizes. This allows for considerable discussion, interaction and small group work.

Course Content

The two-year MPlan programme has a broad-based curriculum - a particular strength of the course in view of the knowledge and skills that planners require to be effective planning professionals. The structure of the course is designed to give students competence in core planning skills and the opportunity to specialise in areas in which they are particularly interested. These specialisms are usually related to the teaching and research interests of academic staff members at Otago, which include:

Planning Class Roxburgh
A Planning class at Roxburgh
  • Urban planning in a changing society
  • Sustainable development
  • Local knowledge and environmental management
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Children and young peoples' participation in planning
  • Iwi planning
  • Cultural Health and Wellbeing
  • Sustainable rural communities
  • Urban settlements
  • Development in post-conflict countries and regions
  • Community-based development
  • Natural resource management
  • Community participation and development
  • Landscape and heritage
  • Climatology and climate change
  • Hydrology

NZPI Student Membership

Those enrolled in a course accredited by the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) are eligible for NZPI Student membership.