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Bruce Wills wants to change the model from one-world-class-city to having world class towns and cities

Bruce Wills wants to change the model from one-world-class-city to having world class towns and cities
Bruce Wills points out the risks of concentrating everything here

By Bruce Wills*

What has Zoe Marshall and Auckland got in common?

Not a lot, if the reports of her league to union convert husband Benji are to be believed.

Given the choice between Sydney and an aspiring world-city like Auckland, it is Auckland which seems to have come up short.

As policy makers here push Auckland’s development into being ‘our’ world-class city, this unvarnished look from outside should give policy makers pause for thought.

The accepted theory is that for New Zealand to succeed, Auckland must become a South Pacific New York. 

To be fair to Auckland it is a great city.

I do not subscribe to the bagging it unfairly receives but our view is that instead of one world-class city, what about having world class towns and cities instead?

These thoughts crystallised during a panel I was on for TV3’s The Nation.  On the panel with me was outgoing Agricultural Contractor’s Federation president John Hughes and Calvin Fisher of the Amalgamated Worker’s Union.

I must say that I enjoyed my fellow panellists.

There was no bickering but a constructive and frank exchange of ideas. What also struck me during filming was where we were all coming in from.

John was in a studio down in Invercargill, Calvin was in Christchurch and I was in Hastings.  It was only host Rachel Smalley who was in TV3’s Auckland studio and somehow that makes a point.

Especially since we were discussing how Auckland seems to have a higher than average anything, including unemployment.

John was exasperated at the lack of takers even for well paying rural jobs and Calvin agreed. As a unionist, he constructively pointed out working conditions but not to score points. He said it in a way I found agreeable because we do need to focus on working conditions.

We all agreed that past perceptions remain a problem. It is here Sir Roger Douglas’ ‘sunset industry’ misstep still affects us in the third decade after he said it.

Tractor Driver may not sound skilled until you realise a tractor these days is technology worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You are also working with animals and crops worth large sums of money and the focus is on precision agriculture. Another big factor is as simple as having a driver’s license.  The licensing reforms that the AA, Unions and we had concerns about may be biting.

While the Government has a bold business growth agenda it also announced a mammoth $10 billion transport package for Auckland.

Auckland’s gravity-defying property market is leading to ever stricter lending controls affecting those well outside the city.

While there has been a lot of focus on rural debt, now over $50 billion, this is dwarfed by the $195 billion owed by households. 

This Auckland focus also repeats a quirk we have by putting all of our eggs into the same basket. We’ve had Britain, “Think Big” and now China, unless we can bring home free trade deals with the rest of the BRICS; Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, not to mention the TPP.

Domestically, many of our policy eggs are going into Auckland but this seems to deny the disruptive role technology is and will play. 

Will we continue to have massive head-offices based in one key city?  With technology, why are we investing so heavily into public transport when advances will reduce, replace or change many roles beyond recognition?  Record shops anyone?  The massive advances in 3D printing will see niche manufacturing move into homes and businesses short circuiting supply chains.

It all seems like the philosophies behind the massive Airbus A380 versus Boeing’s svelte 787 Dreamliner.

With the hub, big planes feed people from all points into it before they transfer onto smaller planes. The other approach is to fly directly to the final destination.

Do we want Auckland as New Zealand’s “hub,” or does Canterbury, with its phoenix-like city and vibrant towns, show us an alternative way?

Instead of underwriting Auckland’s unlimited expansion, is it not better to focus on policies to connect transport, secure world-best internet access and future proof our economy through water storage.

Wellington’s Transmission Gully is essential for efficient interisland freight and efficiency may extend the discussion to Picton versus Clifford Bay.

Ultimately, if Auckland gets too hard to work and live in, then people and companies will find more agreeable places.  This will benefit the provincial economy so long as the infrastructure is there to support them.

Just imagine, for one moment, what one-percent of Auckland’s $10 billion transport package would do for this region.

This comes back to changing the model from having just one world-class city to having world-class towns and cities. It may not be the international way but it could just be the Kiwi way. 


Bruce Wills is the President of Federated Farmers. You can contact him here »

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While I'm sympathetic to this view, I think it is fighting 5000 years of perceptions that cities are where to go to get ahead as it is where the rich and powerful live.

Absolutely no argument from me. Can't think why anyone would actually volunteer to live Auckland, with its clogged motorways and ludricous prices.
Any prospective Auckland dwellers, I suggest you go check where your drinking water is coming from before you make up your mind  and check out what is being done to deal with the ever increasing waste.

I like Auckland city, BUT...
Its a parasite economy. Doesn't produce anything that couldn;t be bought cheaper elsewhere in the world.
NZ inc still earns it's way in the world from rural enterprises.
Why do we accept that Auckland IS going to grow? That isn't going to help NZ.
We have all the infrastructure in good provincial cities that could easily grow by 10% now and at a comfortable rate thereafter. With less crime than is associated with "supercities". 
Also It's not smart as NZ inc to put all your eggs in One basket (Queen st volcanoe erupts etc) 
A policy that discourages/penalises business from being in Auckland and incourages/rewards them for being elsewhere would be good for NZ and NZers but thats not a National party type of intervention and Labour seem devoid of thinkers to come up with such policy so what to do?
I favour spliting the country into 2 at a line just north of Taupo/Taumauranui/Napier -any takers? 

  Technology will really re-shape where we can work from.  Living in the main centers will become less of a need for many professions (  not all, but many  )  When I first started working remotely ( 2005 ) I was the only person I knew that did this.  Now many of my friends do.   


 It has come about out of necessity more than anything else.   I said to my boss, I'm shifting town.  He wanted to retain my shills and said how are we going to make this work?      I now sit in my office at home and do contracts for television networks all over the world.  One day this will be the norm, rather than the exception to the rule.

Well said but before this can become mainstream the suppliers of broadband need to make sure that the infrastructure is there to support this.  There are quite  a few people working from rural towns from their homes for city clients but many are unable to because they are told there are not enough ports available.  That's third world stuff - fix it and there will be many more opportunities for people to work outside of the mainstream cities.  Houses are much more affordable in rural towns also and it will also alleviate the "age" problem that is looming hard and fast in New Zealand for councils.  Surely not a hard thing to do for the Govts.

I think the reason we put all our "eggs in one basket" because New Zealand is such a centralised run country and has been one for 135 years. The only other developed country that is so centrally run is England. New Zealand's centralisation is further reinforced because our top advisors and policies are often from England.
You could add Neoliberalism under Douglas/Richardson as another 'basket' alongside of being Britains farm, Think Big and now China as a vision from Wellington that we went overboard on.
What we need is some advisors from a small Mittlestand city in Germany or a small city in Finland, Denmark etc that can teach us how they support vibrant specialised industries.
Then maybe we could get away from the idea there is one solution for all of New Zealand.

You're right about both NZ and England being centralized run country's.  But even England now seems to be trying to combat this by shifting some publicly funded ventures to other parts of England.  In 2010 they shifted nearly half of BBC to Manchester for example.  

The New Zeland government seems obsessed with the Auckland super city idea and wants to shift everything there.


  As any experienced investor will tell you:   All your eggs in one basket is never a good idea!

How much influence does the voting population have on the governments obsession with Auckland? Apart from the traffic and what it reflects, I enjoy visiting Auckland, and checking out the materialistic jafas. I have an elderly Uncle on Cheltenham beach, and life seems easier, but I suspect that's not the case outside of Devonport.