49th International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Congress

  • Delegates and speakers from 47 different countries in attendance
  • The first ISOCARP meeting ever held in Queensland
  • One of the world’s most important city and regional planning conferences
Attendance 203 delegates
Host City Brisbane, Australia
Venue Royal International Convention Centre (Royal ICC)
Date 2013 - October

The International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) is a non-governmental global network of highly-qualified city and regional planners. It has national delegations in more than 70 countries and is headquartered in The Hague. The Society’s main event is its annual world congress which focuses on a theme of international interest, which for the Brisbane-based congress was ‘Frontiers of Planning’. Since commencement of the congresses in 1965, only one other event has ever been held in Australia.

The congress is attended by professionals involved in various planning and related disciplines and includes urban managers, academics, planning practitioners, members of city and regional governments and others from around the globe involved in the future of cities and regions.

The congress has an extraordinary spread of international delegate attendance with nearly every country in the world represented. For the Brisbane congress delegates and speakers came from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, The Netherlands, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, West Indies, Zaire, Zimbabwe.

The conference included keynote plenary sessions, workshops, technical seminars, parallel workshops, technical tours of Brisbane and surrounding region, an International Planners Exchange, a workshop on the education of urban planners, and a small trade exhibition and poster board area.

Why Brisbane?
ISOCARP requires its host destination to have a strong urban planning focus. Brisbane City Council is not only the largest city council in Australia but is one of the largest municipal governments in the world. Operating with an annual budget of AUD$ 2 billion, the city has initiated a range of ambitious planning and urban renewal projects, including the longest running programme of its type in Australia.For more than 20 years, Brisbane City Council’s ‘Urban Renewal Brisbane’ (URB) programme has been breathing new life into derelict, forgotten parts of Brisbane, helping to sustainably manage the city’s growth.

Brisbane was also theonly Australian city named as a finalist for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, an award thatrecognises cities from around the world which excel in urban design, good governance andinnovation. The city also boasts numerous examples of world-class architecture, infrastructure and urban design including the contemporary Gallery of Modern Art, which in 2010 was Australia’s most visited gallery/museum complex.The pedestrian-only thoroughfare, the award-winning Kurilpa Bridge, is the world’s largest hybrid ‘tensegrity’ bridge, a principle which produces a synergy between balanced tension and compression components to create a light but incredibly strong structure. The bridge, which spans the Brisbane River, was judged the World Transport Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in 2011.

The city’s Airport Link tollway is Australia’s largest privately funded transport infrastructure project. Other innovative urban road transport solutions include the Legacy Way and Clem 7 tunnels and the Go Between Bridge, which crosses the Brisbane River in the heart of the city.

The enthusiastic support of the local organising committee, which was made up of representatives from the urban planning sector and academia, was also seen as a major plus and undoubtedly contributed to this conference coming to Australia, outside the event’s usual international rotational pattern.

Other attributes which made Brisbane so attractive to the ISOCARP Board included:

  • a geographic location on the Pacific Rim, offering easy access to Asia and the Pacific
  • a go-ahead, ‘new world’ sub-tropical city with unique architecture and streetscapes
  • situated in a region of the world with not only the world’s fastest growing economy but also significant weight of population and an area where a significant proportion of ISOCARP’s membership will be based in the future.

The Brisbane Marketing Convention Bureau developed and presented Brisbane’s bid for the 2013 ISOCARP Congress and also assisted with venue and accommodation selection, as well as general planning assistance in the lead-up to the event.

Asthe official Convention Bureau, Brisbane Marketing is responsible for promoting Brisbane nationally and internationally as a Business Events destination. In association with its member partners, the Convention Bureau plays a key role in securing Business Events for Brisbane.  It provides meeting planners and event organisers with free advice, support and a wide range of services, in order to ensure that the city meets all of the conference’s needs and objectives.

The bid criteria for this congress were very specific and amongst a range of other factors, required the host destination to be located in a secure and stable country, to have significant experience in city and regional planning and to have good connections with ISOCARP.

With strong local industry support forming part of the selection criteria, the Convention Bureau sourced a broad range of letters of support from national, regional, State and municipal authorities, including one from the Prime Minister of Australia.

The Convention Bureau offered financial and in-kind support which assisted with the promotional marketing of the ISOCARP Congress and also supported the travel costs of several international keynote speakers who presented at the congress.

Considerable delegate boosting support was also made available via the Convention Bureau’s ‘Convention Support Toolkit’. This complimentary assistance package comprises a selection of promotional collateral, pre and post touring ideas, and visitor support services which are designed to assist with the attraction of delegates to conferences held in Brisbane.

In the case of the ISOCARP Congress, this included:

  • provision of 800 tailor-made promotional postcards
  • miniature clip-on ‘Brisbane Koala’ badges and posters for distribution at the 2012 ISOCARP Congress in the city of Perm in Russia, where the announcement was made regarding Brisbane being the location for the 2013 congress
  • ready-made pre and post touring and partners programme itineraries, promotional destination video and general visitor information for the congress website

A selection of Brisbane images was also provided for the conference website and also for an ISOCARP publication called ‘ISOCARP Review 09 – Frontiers of Planning: Visionary futures for human settlements’.

A Welcome Desk, manned by student volunteers from three of Brisbane’s universities, was established at Brisbane International Airport to assist arriving delegates. Pocket-sized fold out city maps and Brisbane Visitor Guides were supplied for insertion into all delegate satchels and a discounted return fare was negotiated for all delegates to utilise the Airtrain services to and from the airport.

Brisbane Marketing Convention Bureau General Manager Rob Nelson said: - “This congress brought such an incredibly diverse group of international delegates to our city. The feed-back we’ve received would indicate that they were delighted with what they found, with the majority of them visiting our city for the very first time.”  He also made special mention of the technical tours that took place. “We were especially pleased that the technical tour programme ensured they were able to get out and about to see for themselves some of the urban planning innovations that explain why Brisbane is branded as a ‘New World City’. “

Congress receives a warm Brisbane welcome
On the first evening of the congress, a Civic Reception hosted by the Lord Mayor and the City of Brisbane was held at the very grand Brisbane City Hall, which is located in the heart of the city. Built between 1920 and 1930, this building is one of Queensland's most significant heritage and cultural icons and has recently undergone an AUD$ 215 million restoration and upgrade.  With 12 different function and meeting spaces on offer, the Civic Reception was held in theIthaca Auditorium.

Before the official congress sessions got underway, an Indigenous Welcome to Country and ‘Smoking Ceremony’ incorporating didgeridoo music, traditional song and dance was staged by the internationally-acclaimed Aboriginal Dance Troupe Nunukul Yuggera. Indigenous Elder, Eddie Ruska, who is a direct descendant of the Yuggera people of the Ipswich and Brisbane regions, made the presentation.

A casual cocktail networking event was held on one of the evenings within the trade exhibition area at the convention centre while on the final evening, a gala dinner and awards ceremony was held off-site at Hillstone St Lucia, a classic, traditionally-styled venue which offers beautiful views over one hundred acres of parklands and is just 15 minutes from the heart of the city.

Delegates interact with their Australian colleagues
During the congress, a day-long session was held in partnership with the Planning Institute of Australia, providing a wonderful opportunity for interaction between Institute members and the international delegates in attendance.

An Urban Design Workshop was also conducted with Hassell, an international planning and design consultancy housed in a former bread factory in Brisbane’s inner-city Fortitude Valley precinct. This workshop was conducted for a group of 40 Australian and international delegates.

A diverse array of half day technical tours were provided on a complimentary basis to enable delegates to personally view and experience some of Brisbane’s planning innovations. Tours were escorted by volunteer ‘Tour Directors’, many of whom were local planners. Tours included a visit to view the urban renewal of inner city Teneriffe/New Farm, previously home to wool stores, wartime naval wharves, a sugar refinery and a powerhouse. Others included the former World Expo site at Southbank, a visit to some of the city’s diverse urban villages, cycling and walking tours and a coach tour to view the city’s waterways management. All the tours were scheduled and routed so that delegates would end up at the Brisbane City Hall in time for the Civic Reception.

Accompanying Partner tours included a cruise up the Brisbane River to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and also a Brisbane City Sights tour, which included the key historical and cultural features and attractions of the city. There was also the option to take a two hour cruise of the Brisbane River on the city’s innovative local public transport vessels known as the City Cats.

“The city of Brisbane is one of the larger municipal governments in the world and it’s doing very interesting things in relation to transport and regional planning, cooperating with other municipal governments and cooperating with State. Brisbane has some excellent venues for congresses and all the right backup and infrastructure for a really good international congress.  And there’s a certain optimism and buoyancy about Brisbane, a certain kind of forward looking character and an embracing of innovation which I think our members will find very striking.” – was the verdict of Jeremy Dawkins, ISOCARP Vice President (Congresses) when Brisbane was selected.


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