Women in Planning




As we say farewell to Sarah who departs HillPDA to head the Greater Sydney Commission, HillPDA recognises our women leading planning.

Visionary. Passionate. Fearless. Inspirational. Planning’s industry leader and outgoing director of HillPDA, Sarah Hill, is at the front of the planning pack. Handpicked from HillPDA, Sarah leaves behind a legacy of trusted independent planning advice at the forefront of economic, strategic and social planning. HillPDA’s success is greatly due to Sarah’s well respected reputation and leading edge voice.

Sarah is only stepping away to take up the challenge of steering the Greater Sydney Commission. Effectively, Sarah will now be a power broker and voice of metropolitan Sydney alongside fellow esteemed female planning pioneers Lucy Turnbull and Heather Nesbitt.

With Sarah paving new ground in Sydney, HillPDA is left in highly valued hands. Second to none in the physical shaping of Sydney, HillPDA’s most recent appointment is none other than NSW PIA president Marjorie Ferguson. With over a decade of experience as a forward thinking local government agent, Marjorie has been involved in significant urban renewal projects from the former industrial land sites at Rhodes to the Parramatta Road Urban Transformation Strategy.

At the onset, Marjorie recognised that regeneration of the much avoided eye sore areas involved more than a ‘build it and they shall come’ mentality. Active throughout the full redevelopment process in some of Sydney’s greatest urban renewal triumphs, Marjorie, along with her colleagues foresaw the gaps in much needed community infrastructure. Give-and-take collaborations with developers took place. The result? Vibrant, sustainable community facilities and open space areas funded by development.

Also a leading voice in urban regeneration is HillPDA’s new appointment, the highly skilled and ferocious negotiator Erin Saunders. Erin perfectly complements Marjorie as the equal but opposite force in development negotiations. A proven powerhouse of land use planning, Erin has successfully rezoned tens of thousands of hectares for her high profile private clients.

Erin’s experience in land rezoning has transformed these once empty industrial wastelands into bustling town centres. Further, she has tirelessly led the research and policy work to invigorate Western Sydney’s strategic centres and rejuvenate Sydney’s employment lands.

Stepping into the spotlight and out of the large economic footprint of Martin Hill, creator of Australia’s most utilised property development software, Virginia Hill has grabbed the future of the valuations world by both hands, leading the charge at HillPDA.

Clearly tenacity and leadership runs in the family, as Virginia has taken her career to London and back advocating the importance of feasible, affordable housing. Virginia reiterates the critical need for affordable and diverse housing, stressing that the industry will only be able to lead in this delivery once the balance between planning and feasibility is understood. After all, if development isn’t feasible, no one will construct housing. She now leads in advising Australia’s largest housing providers for both government and private clients.

Complementing Virginia, housing market forecast guru and economics master, Rachael Logie has an astute awareness of the future market. Utilising her prowess in economic forecasting, Rachael’s innovative housing modelling has landed her here at HillPDA.

But it seems that housing has always been in Rachael’s sight.

One of her early economic masterstroke’s was the creation of the Housing Efficiency Model for none other than energy giant, Origin. Teaming with Virginia, Rachael’s cutting edge economic forecasting and financial modelling skills are shaping the future of housing development in NSW.

Hailing from breezy, sunny Brisbane, Elle Clouston took the NSW planning world by storm. At just 25, Elle’s leadership, ambition and passion saw her crossing the border to solely re-establish Place Design Group’s Sydney planning branch. Diving into the unknown, Elle took up the challenge, quickly establishing herself on industry committees, passionately advocating for feasible planning practices and becoming a spokesperson for economically viable, socially inclusive and vibrant local centres.

Elle’s vision and advocacy for holistic urban planning led her to HillPDA. Leading on the state’s largest housing projects, Elle is breaking ground in providing affordable housing and socially inclusive communities for those without a voice.

Another with a strong voice and fierce opinion, Shona Porter wants to see planning in Sydney become more dangerous. Believing that planning is too commonly led by politics, Shona is a strong believer that planning practitioners need to have a stronger voice and start challenging the way we operate.

Planning chose Shona. Not realising that her passion for creativity, lust for exploring corruption cases and skill of knowing the ins and outs of legislation would make her an ideal planner, Shona first took the music and creative theatre pathway before finding her voice in writing policy and leading on Sydney’s biggest infrastructure projects. Shona will be a leader of the future.

The women of HillPDA are not willing to let their industry lay idle or their city be mediocre. The future of our places lies in the hands of the people that plan them. We need to be visionary, passionate, and fearless. As we say farewell to Sarah, we recognise the women leading planning past and present and know that we can be inspired by the women that lead planning.