University of Otago Master of Planning

MPlan Papers

The content of each planning paper offered at 4th and 5th year level is described below, as well as Field School and Seminar requirements. You should read the Prescription to see which papers are required to fulfil course requirements.


PLAN 411: Planning Theory

Course objectives:

To develop an understanding of:

  • the development of planning thought;
  • the theories and theoretical approaches that have informed and continue to inform planning practice;
  • the origins and significance of current planning debates and approaches to planning theory and practice.


Origins of planning thought; changing themes in planning; planning theories and philosophy; changing approaches to planning including, planning as a social, political and environmental activity; comparative planning approaches; applications of planning theory; approaches to the New Zealand resource planning system and future planning.

Method of Teaching:

Lectures, seminars and assignments.

PLAN 412: Spatial Planning and Development

Course objectives:

To develop an understanding of:

  • the range of skills required by planners
  • the development planning process
  • project development and design
  • methods of assessing development proposals and impacts, especially effects on the community; and
  • methods of evaluating public planning policy


To develop understanding of the development process as it relates to project development, evaluation and appraisal. Forward and strategic planning and planning methods & skills.

Method of Teaching:

Lectures, seminars, applied course work, project appraisal, planning studio.

PLAN 435: Planning Case Study I & PLAN 535: Planning Case Study II

Course Objectives:

  • to develop professional planning skills through applied, team organised, field-based research;
  • to develop inter-personal, organisational and communication skills.


These papers bring together the first and second year MPlan students to carry out group studies of a local or regional planning issue. Work is organised around the PLAN 435/535 field school and normally entails issue scoping and prioritisation, research design, survey design, data gathering and analysis, policy evaluation and report writing. It requires verbal and written presentation of results. Emphasis is placed on team organisation, problem solving and self directed learning. The field school usually involves 5-7 days stay at the case study location.

Method of teaching:

Group work in response to a planning brief negotiated with an agency. Groups are allocated to a staff member as supervisor but are expected to be largely self-directed.

All students take LAWS 515: Resource Management Law

Course Objective:

To develop a sound understanding of law relating to resource management.

Method of teaching:

Lectures and case studies.

Students should take either

LAWS 521: International Environmental Law


LAWS 540: Environmental Law

PLAN 438: Planning Practice

Course Objectives:

  • to develop professional planning practice skills;
  • to develop an understanding of planning processes and institutions in New Zealand; and
  • to examine issues and developments in planning practice


Interpretation and application of the RMA, plans and policy statements; the principles of the Treaty and their implications for planning practice; key planning skills including preparing an application for resource consent, writing a planning report, and developing plan provisions; subdivision processes; consultation and facilitation techniques; presentation skills; hearing procedures; contemporary planning issues; other key legislation and processes that influence the work of planners in New Zealand.

Method of Teaching:

Lectures, seminars, moot court, Marae visit, attendance at local authority and Environment Court hearings.

PLAN 590: Research Project

A research project is usually based on secondary sources, rather than primary data. The completed research project must be submitted by 1 October of the second year of the programme

PLAN 5: Thesis

The thesis involves the collection of primary data as well as the use of secondary sources. The completed PLAN5 thesis must be submitted by 1 November of the second year of the programme.


Seminars by visiting practitioners from central and local government, the private sector and international visitors are scheduled throughout the year. These are seen as an important component of the programme and a satisfactory record of attendance is required of all students.

MPlan hui
Students at Otakou marae with Edward Ellison


Each year, a hui is held at a local marae for the planning students, either for one day or overnight. In preparation, staff and students attending the hui attend marae protocol and cultural preparation sessions run by staff from TeTumu-Maori Studies and within the Geography Department. In recent years, hui have been held at the following marae:


  • Te Runanga o Otakou
  • Te Runanga o Moeraki
  • Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki
  • Arai Te Uru