Flexible study options a perfect fit for planning student

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Master of Resource and Environmental Planning student Julia Kingham lives and studies in Taiwan.

Julia Kingham.

Last updated: Monday 20 November 2023

Julia Kingham was born and raised in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, pākehā of Scottish/Irish ancestry and now lives in Taiwan.

Straight after high school, they left for Wellington to attend design school and went into spatial design at Massey. Julia's father had studied to be a vet, so Massey runs in the family.

“I then fell into the fashion industry, first in a PR fashion design company as the showroom manager in Auckland and then various roles in luxury furniture and fashion over the next decade in Sydney, London and Vancouver. I also did a stint of teaching English in a small seaside town in Southern Japan for a year before meeting my Taiwanese partner,” Julia says.

Julia and her partner moved to Taipei, Taiwan, and married in 2019.

“I had fallen out of love with the fashion industry, and despite shifting into the 'eco' sustainable fashion side of the industry, I did not feel that it provided the type of community engagement and long-term big-picture thinking type of work I was interested in.

“I heard about the distance study programmes offered over the years from different people. As I was living in Taiwan but wanted to return to Aotearoa at some point, it made sense to continue my studies by distance at Massey.”

Initially, Julia did a graduate diploma in development studies.

“I enjoyed the reading, research and writing about urban issues and creating sustainable and resilient communities. Having lived in a diverse range of big cities, I shifted my studies to the Master of Resource and Environmental Planning (MRP) because it connected to my interests and my background in spatial design.”

Overall, Julia enjoyed returning to study.

“I found the online programme structure excellent for distance study. I found writing essays and assignments that incorporated creative elements the most enjoyable because I enjoyed the research and found completing the final paper the most rewarding.

“Studying planning at Massey allowed me to have the flexibility to learn from anywhere and, at the same time, feel connected to Aotearoa. There are excellent electives offered to take advantage of the areas you are most interested in and consider how they may benefit you and your learning journey."

“I was initially thinking of doing the thesis. However, I am glad that I ended up deciding not to. This decision was solely based on wanting to do more electives. I enjoyed the electives the most, and they guided me to the areas that I wanted to progress my research in and the paths I want my future career to take. For example, my wife is Indigenous Taiwanese, and I have been working alongside her to visit rural Indigenous communities throughout Taiwan.

“I found the Advanced Māori Planning paper incredibly helpful in understanding the complexities of working with communities. I believe the Advanced Māori Planning paper should be a core paper for the MRP as, for me, it was the most rewarding and, at the same time, challenging to engage with my ancestry and learn about the history of land connected to my family in the Waikato region as pākehā.

“I also thoroughly enjoyed the Urban Planning paper because of my interest in urban design. It was an essay I wrote during this paper researching gender-inclusive urban spaces that led to my chosen topic for my research paper, where I investigated the queering of public spaces.”


Julia found studying during the pandemic very challenging because of the isolation from the country, as well as the isolation that distance studies entail when you are home a lot and there were periods where cafes and libraries were shut, which also made it hard to focus.

“I wanted to build relationships and have verbal conversations about the topics/issues I was interested in and I found writing conversations in forums to be much more difficult, especially about contentious topics when communication is sensitive and the written language can be read or interpreted differently than perhaps intended.

“I also found the law paper very difficult, and this was the least enjoyable for me, as were the exams. I found doing exams from overseas very stressful.”

Advice to students

Julia would recommend the Advanced Māori Planning paper for Aotearoa practitioners to study.

“It is a challenging course to take because there is both theory and law involved.

“It’s also important to prepare to be self-motivated and stay on top of coursework. Building connections with other students to talk face-to-face would also be helpful in building motivation and future relationships.

“Because people come to planning from all different backgrounds, you need to be prepared to study courses that you feel are challenging as well as those that you feel more comfortable with.”

Find out more about the Master of Resource and Environmental Planning here:

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