Stephen Hains – A leader in planning

Once the CEO of the ‘best council in Australia’, Stephen Hains’ leadership in town planning and management has had a great impact on Adelaide’s Councils.

In 1970 Stephen Hains not only achieved a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at Flinders, he also found his lifelong partner, Jill at the University. Stephen says, “Flinders was a new university which made it so attractive to attend. It also had the best economics faculty in the State.” Following his graduation, Stephen entered the graduate program in the former Department of Trade and Industry in Canberra.

“My Honours year in Economics was combined with Geography,” says Stephen, “I had chosen to do my thesis on a Land Economics theme about the causes of the then residential decline of the southern half of the Adelaide square mile.”

The Lord Mayor of Adelaide read the thesis and Stephen was offered a position as an economist and project manager with the consultant planning team preparing the first city plan for Adelaide. In 1973, he and Jill moved back to Adelaide to work on the project.

Working with a CEO who saw that all things were possible Stephen says, “We broke new ground at the time, with an active public engagement program and a strong emphasis on design outcomes.” The experience gave Stephen a taste for town planning and he embarked on a Masters in Urban Design and Regional Planning at Edinburgh University in Scotland.

Returning to Adelaide in 1976, Stephen became the very first City Planner with the City of Unley where he prepared the Council’s first planning strategy. He was later appointed Town Clerk and with further studies in management, he took an active role in updating and reforming the Council’s management processes.

In the 1980s, a time of planning reform in South Australia, Stephen became involved in planning and advisory roles within State Government including the role as the first Chairman of the South Australian Planning Commission. Later as the Director of Planning for the Department of Environment and Planning he was responsible for all planning, development and environmental assessment and heritage for the State.

Missing the hands-on experience of local government, Stephen became CEO of the City of Salisbury in 1991. “Salisbury was without doubt the most stimulating and satisfying roles of my career,” says Stephen. “It was, and is, a challenging community, but I went out of my way to ensure that the local council met many of its complex needs.”

“Notably our path-finding work in stormwater recycling that was an international first and at one stage, The Advertiser even proclaimed us ‘the best council in Australia!’”

Since retiring from full time work in 2011, Stephen has been active on a number of Boards, including Flinders University Council as Deputy Chancellor, a role he has held since 2014. “While I am now retired, I drew on my learnings from my Flinders degree throughout my career, often in ways that I could not have predicted. I feel fortunate to have spent time as a student at this great institution.”

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