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Written By

Tianna Killoran


College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

2 November 2022

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Developing a regional paradise

JCU Alumni Matteo Sandona tells us about his role as a Senior Town Planner at Milford Planning and how he is able to pursue a diverse and challenging career that plans for the future of our regional towns and cities.

JCU Alumni Matteo Sandona says that his fascination with design and how things worked led him to a career that offered the opportunity for creativity and big-picture thinking. “After exploring engineering and architecture during high school work experience, I realised I was more interested in the holistic view of how things worked rather than the specific details of a single component,” he says. “I then discovered town planning and found it to be exactly that — a profession requiring you to be across the individual components to ensure they work together to achieve the best possible outcome.”

Now working as a Senior Town Planner at Milford Planning in Townsville, Matteo says working in regional Queensland offers a diverse and exciting array of projects. “Working in this region requires both planners and planning controls to be adaptable and responsive to the specific context,” he says. “For example, the approach taken to prepare a planning scheme or complete assessment of a development application in Townsville cannot be the same as the approach taken for Richmond.”

A strong advocate for planning and development in the Tropics, Matteo says that he is grateful for the experience that working in the region has offered him. “Living and working in Townsville has given me a wealth of knowledge, exciting project experience, and career progression that I feel I would not have achieved so early elsewhere,” he says. “After six years in the industry, I'm now a Senior Town Planner working with a great team at Milford Planning whilst being able to enjoy the convenience of living in a regional city.”

Matteo Sandona at the Ardo Hotel site on Breakwater Island in Townsville.

Supplied by Matteo Sandona.

Fast cars, big industry and iconic skylines

In the final year of his degree, Matteo says he was able to put his skills and knowledge into action at Milford Planning. “After being offered a full-time position as a town planner just as I was wrapping up my degree, I began working on a wide range of planning and development projects all across regional Queensland,” he says. “I'm still constantly learning something new and enjoying the variety of work six years later!”

Matteo says he’s had a number of career highlights that have seen him working on projects from Richmond in outback Queensland all the way to developing Townsville’s skyline. “One highlight from my strategic planning experience would be preparing the Richmond Shire Planning Scheme 2020. This document was tailored specifically for the Richmond community, with the result being an innovative and easy-to-use planning document,” he says.

“I've been fortunate enough to work on iconic projects around both Townsville and regional Queensland,” Matteo says. “This includes the DriveIt NQ motorsport facility out in Calcium on the Flinders Highway, just west of Townsville. This is a much-needed asset for the North Queensland community and the first motorsport facility of its kind in Queensland.

“I've also had the opportunity to work on the Cleveland Bay Industrial Park since its inception. The development comprises a state-of-the-art, fully serviced industrial park on the Townsville Port Access Road, making it some of the best-serviced and most sought-after industrial land in the region.”

Rising above Townsville’s cityscape will soon be another of Matteo’s projects that offers locals and tourists a new spot for a day spa, pool deck and bar. “One other iconic project I've worked on that is currently rising up on the Townsville skyline is the Ardo Hotel, which is a new $88 million luxury hotel located on Breakwater Island adjacent The Ville Resort-Casino.”

Thinking global, planning local

Matteo says his undergraduate studies gave him hands-on experience in planning projects and a diverse understanding of both urban and regional planning that caters to the needs of communities.

“Planning needs to reflect the context of both the locality and the community's planning literacy in order to achieve the best outcomes.”

JCU Alumni and Senior Town Planner at Milford Planning, Matteo Sandona

Importantly, Matteo says he had the opportunity to become involved in a range of urban planning projects across towns and cities. “This included master planning projects in Townsville, Cairns, Cooktown, and Ingham and even internationally in Singapore,” he says. “The Singapore trip gave us plenty of insight into good tropical urban design. Singapore has a climate similar to North Queensland and JCU’s connections —and campus — in Singapore were fantastic. It made the whole experience very authentic and memorable.

“Field trips around North and Far North Queensland also gave us an understanding of the scale of our country and taught us that the needs of those in the regions are not always the same as those in urban environments,” Matteo says. “This knowledge has helped me realise that we need planning controls capable of adapting to both urban and regional requirements to achieve the common goal of making great places to live.”

Above all, Matteo says that opportunities for the planning profession in regional Queensland are endless and will give you an array of opportunities. “My advice to students is to go regional. I'd highly recommend doing some work experience in a regional town or city, where you'll get exposure to a huge variety of planning and development aspects that wouldn't be possible in capital cities,” Matteo says.

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