Meet Our Team

Our team are nimble, creative, and thought leaders in our field.

We are strong advocates for high quality-built form and land developments, clearly understood planning controls and an efficient planning system.

Our team hold roles on the National Board and State Committees of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), Local Government Planners Association (LGPA) and more recently the Global Planning Network (GPN), giving us the platform to advocate for best practice across Australia.

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Nicola Smith

Founding Director

Bachelor of Arts (Urban & Regional Planning)
Masters of Communication
Grad Cert (Ecotourism & Sustainable Development)
Registered Planner (Fellow) of PIA

Nicola is the Founding Director of Niche Studio. She is a qualified Urban and Regional Planner with over twenty years’ experience in planning, design, consultation and land development in government and the private sector across Australia, with specific experience in Victoria, WA and Tasmania.

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Tamara Vreeken


Bachelor of Arts (Geography)
LGPA Committee Member (WA)
Full Member of PIA

Tamara leads our WA Office, bringing more than twenty years’ experience to her role. Having worked in both government and private consultancy, Tamara experience ranges across all aspects of town planning, with emphasis on activity centre planning, major development, cultural heritage, land acquisition and disposal and policy formation.

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Matthew Buckmaster

Associate Director

Bachelor of Social Science Arts (Planning) (Honours)
Cert IV Landscape Design
Full Member of PIA

Matthew brings over sixteen years’ experience in local government planning, built form outcomes and statutory implementation to his projects at Niche Studio. An experienced and respected advocate at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Matthew has strong knowledge in residential, commercial, industrial and rural proposals.

Karen Liddell

Principal Planner/Designer

Graduate Diploma (Early Childhood Education)
Graduate Diploma (Urban & Regional Planning)
Bachelor of Arts (Urban & Regional Planning)
Registered Member of PIA

Karen is a qualified urban planner who brings a wealth of experience in the areas of urban renewal, built form guidelines, complex development applications and structure planning. Karen’s experience is built on over 20yrs in the industry working in variety of roles including private consulting and local government, across Australia and overseas. 

James Paull

Senior Associate

Bachelor of Urban & Regional Planning
Full Member of PIA

James is a qualified Urban and Regional Planner working across both our WA and Victorian offices.  James has more than ten years’ experience in state and local government, together with private consultancy focussing on strategic planning (particularly Precinct Structure Planning and structure planning) community engagement, subdivision approvals and policy review.

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Naomi Beck


Master of Urban Planning & Environment (2018)
Bachelor of Arts (Art History) (2015)
Full Member of PIA

Naomi manages a team of planners and consultants in the provision of specialised planning and community engagement advice. Naomi’s particular focus includes integration of environmentally sustainable and community driven outcomes in planning, with a keen interest in regional areas, where she has contributed to a number of strategic, statutory, urban design and community consultation projects.

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Nivedita Ravindran

Senior Urban Designer

Master of Urban Design (2020)
Bachelor of Architecture (2018)
Member (Associate) of PIA
Registered Architect at the Council of Architecture, India COA

Nivedita is a qualified architect and urban designer with a passion for creating spaces informed by lived experience, legacy, and community. Nived has more than five years’ experience in the built environment and currently heads a varied portfolio of projects ranging from Structure Planning to detailed design, across Australia.

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Joyce Chung

Senior Urban Planner

Bachelor of Design (Urban Planning) (2021)
Member (Graduate) of PIA

Joyce is a motivated Town Planner with strong communication and time management skills. With more than three years experience in state, local and private planning, she is passionate about creating diverse and socially cohesive communities in emerging towns and metropolitan urban renewal.

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James Petts

Urban Planner

Master Sustainable Environments and Planning (2018)
Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design) (2012)
Australian Army (Reservist)
Member (Associate) of PIA

James is a certified urban and regional planner and industrial designer with five years experience working in a variety of planning and design roles in the public and private sectors in Queensland and Victoria. He currently specialises on built form outcomes and public realm solutions across projects undertaken at Niche Studio.

Amy Longva

Urban Planner

Masters in Urban Planning and Environment
Bachelor of Science (Botany/Genetics), Hons.
Bachelor of Agriculture (Plant Science), Hons.
Member (Graduate) of PIA

Amy is an urban planner with a diverse career background and passion for systems design. With experience in environmental consulting, public health and planning, she believes in holistic development of communities and places.

Jacob Heath

Urban Planner

Bachelor of Arts (Geography and Planning), Hons. (2023)
Member (Graduate) of PIA

Jacob is a highly motivated Urban Planner with experience in both the UK and Australian planning systems. He completed his Undergraduate Degree with a First Class (Hons) in BA Geography and Urban Planning at the University of the West of England, United Kingdom and shares a keen interest in planning for a sustainable future.   

Erin Hautea

Graduate Planner

Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning, Hons. (2023)
Member (Student) of PIA

Erin recently graduated with a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning Honours from RMIT. She has a strong interest in community engagement and social planning within the urban growth area.

Maisie Kelly

Student Planner

Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning, Hons. (2024)
Member (Student) of PIA

Maisie is an enthusiastic student planner currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning Honours at RMIT. She has a keen interest in sustainable and social planning in Melbourne’s outer metropolitan areas.

Aisling O’Connor Buckley

Office Manager

Bachelor of Marketing and Bachelor of Media Communication (Public Relations) (2024)

Aisling is a highly valued member at Niche Studio, running all administrative and marketing operations across all offices. Seperately, she is currently completing a double degree in Marketing and Media Communication at Monash University.