I've just got back from 2 days of the New Zealand Planning Institute's Annual Conference (I guess the equivalent of APA) and 3 days of holidaying in the far north of New Zealand's North Island The conference was interesting for me, not having a planning background, to hear what the current issues are for planners in NZ (that was the idea as I'm working on a project that affects planners' work). I wonder if they're the same where you are... I'm pretty sure these are issues in Australia as well.
One big issue is recruiting and retention. It seems that many young people are not even aware that planning is a career option. This was true when I was at high school - career advice did not even mention planning as far as I can remember. And then those that do study planning often head overseas - as many young Kiwis from all professions do. I chatted with one recruitment shark who was circling at the conference, and he admitted that due to the shortage of planners, he basically just recruits people to switch organisations.
For those who do stay, and work as planners in NZ, there is an issue that planning is not generally a well-respected career. It is low profile.
Planning roles are usually split into consents and policy planning. Only a few councils have decided that its better to have these roles combined and have merged these departments so that some people do all of these things, or at least work alongside each other.
However, central govt policy which was hands-off, market driven, minimal planning in the 80s and 90s has changed and there is much better recognition of the importance of resource conservation and sustainable development, with the result of a lot of strategic planning happening at central or regional level, for implementation at the local level. Councils are banding together to look at water supply, provision of parks and green spaces, and transport options at the regional level.
As far as I can tell, the planners I met seemed to be reasonably happy in their roles, and I didn't hear anyone say that they need to be paid more. Not saying that they are super well-paid, but I didn't hear any complaints.
These are just the observations of a non-planner at a planning conference