The first in his family to go to university – with Robbie Brigham

The first in his family to go to university, Robbie Brigham smashed it out the gate with his studies completing a Master of Planning from Otago University in 2023. We caught up with Robbie, a recent graduate, about life at Harrison Grierson and his love for Tim Beatley’s biophilic cities.

‘’It sounds weird, but every time I go outside, I’m thinking about how people live and interact with our environment – and how I would change the way some of Auckland city’s urban planning was done years ago.’’

An avid rugby and cricket fan (and player), Robbie’s passion for urban design was sparked back in school at Napier Boys High School where his geography teacher, Mr Johnson, would wax lyrical about the earth’s physical features and how they shape our environment.

‘’Mr Johnson was so passionate about geography; you couldn’t help but be passionate too!’’ says Robbie who has been with Harrison Grierson for a year starting right after the Auckland anniversary flooding.

‘’That was an interesting time to start!

‘’I jumped straight into some full-on projects – especially around how a lot of our clients were dealing with the impacts the flooding caused.’’

Urban development planning in 2024 is very different to planning 20 years ago and Robbie is relishing the opportunity to integrate climate change and sustainable development into his projects.

‘’As planners, we have to think about how the projects we work on will impact future generations, not just for today.

We also need to ensure that our clients can get an economically feasible development. It’s a great industry to be in and poses lots of challenges.’’

With planners spread out across our five locations nationwide, Robbie has access to some of the best planners in the country.

‘’It’s a real treat to be able to work alongside people with so much knowledge and passion for the industry. Given HG isn’t too big or too small, you’re exposed to a lot of projects you might not get exposure to so early on in your career.’’

When Robbie isn’t working on consents for telecommunications companies, he’s looking at comprehensive developments and policy planning. The work he has been involved in has spanned the length of the country and ranges from large district-wide policy work to site-specific infrastructure work. Outside of work, you can find him on the sports field or in front of the telly watching a test match between New Zealand and Australia.

Robbie’s love of sports came from his dad who was on the field supporting him every Saturday and Sunday when he was younger.

‘’But dad always said, sports second, education first, and it paid off.

He’s pretty chuffed I went to university as no one else in my family had before me.’’

What advice would he give to upcoming graduates?

‘’You don’t have to come into the job thinking you need to know everything. And you’ll probably be overwhelmed the first couple of months, but it’s about putting your hand up and asking questions.’’

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