An interesting Australian article highlights something that has perhaps slipped under the radar of many – that a huge implication of economies in countries like New Zealand shifting away from manufacturing and more towards knowledge industries is a likely changing of the geography of employment. The Australian Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, notes that Australian cities are facing increasing competition from growing cities in Asia, while at the same time facing the aforementioned shift in employment types. Let’s pick up a few key paragraphs:

 Albanese noted that Australian cities will continue to face competition from a growing number of larger cities in the region.

“That puts a major incentive in dealing with how we position ourselves in our increasingly urbanised and increasingly affluent region,” he said. “Our cities have to be more productive. Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it’s nearly everything.”

Albanese added that the changing nature of cities will mean more need for inner-urban medium density housing as work increasingly shifts away from outer urban areas toward city centres.

“In terms of economic functions, our cities are shrinking in on themselves,” he said. “The forces which drove the spread of our cities in the post-war period, predominately manufacturing, are being replaced by knowledge industries – the banking, legal, insurance and myriad of other business services.”

Albanese pointed out that the changes will continue to influence the shape of cities in Australia.

“Whereas manufacturing plants which are traditionally located on the city fringe or in industrial zones, the job-rich knowledge industries tend to concentrate in the heart of our cities,” he said. “As the State of Australian Cities reports, this trend is seeing more and more workers commuting into our city centres.”

There’s a bit of a myth (perhaps another one for our list) that Auckland’s city centre is somehow dying and becoming increasingly irrelevant as employment disperses wider and wider throughout the region. Furthermore, there are often quotes that only 13-15% of Auckland’s jobs are within the motorway ring that’s generally used to define the CBD. Yet as Matt showed in a recent post, the city centre and its fringe is actually still by absolutely miles the largest concentration of employment in Auckland. Furthermore, as shown in the map below, by far the greatest concentrations of employment – in terms of jobs per hectare, are in meshblocks located in the CBD:

There has long been debate between the Council and Central Government over the future projections for employment numbers in the city centre, which seems to be quite critical to how well the business case for the CRL stacks up. If we follow the trends that are increasingly seen in Australia – and which just seem pretty logical as our economy transitions more and more to a post-industrial state – then a reconcentration of employment downtown seems likely (and also incredibly desirable in terms of economic productivity). Which, of course, makes the case for CRL even more compelling.

Share this


  1. The argument with the government is all arse about face: It should be about what we want to happen in Auckland, not what there is already. Clearly building the CRL will enable the centre to grow well and intensely and without it that will be much more unlikely. Auckland is 1/3 of the nation’s economy and we need to make infrastructure decisions that facilitate its performance. And as the report above makes clear intensity and core productivity are the key issues for cities this century.

    Is it just that this government and even more baffling Treasury and MoT have little idea of what cities are and how they compete?

  2. Our future is certainly about working with knowledge and creativity that flourishes with higher concentrations of people and services. However, that’s not just in the CBD over the next few decades. The Core Rail Link also enables better, faster connections between denser business clusters in key growth nodes like New Lynn, Newmarket, Manukau and even Albany; and by bus, walking and cycling with all the smaller centres around them.

  3. Is there any particular reason why banking, legal, and insurance services need to be in the central city? Other than force of historical habit?

    1. Access to a deeper talent pool.
      Access to highly specialised services that are also located centrally.
      Transaction efficiencies: eg. the ability to attend more meetings in one day.
      Rubbing shoulders with other businesses, on the streets in the pubs (“Where Good Ideas Come From”)
      It’s where the boss wants to work.

  4. Recently I had a chance to see some of the documents put forward for the redevelopment of Tamaki on the edge of the city and the area was to be linked to the CBD by new and improved roads. What was missing from the documents I read was no real vision for leading transit oriented design, even from a first principles perspective and a focus, effectively, still on the private motor car. It would be great if the redevelopment took a role in transport and integrated land use design, which could be world leading. Part of this might be low cost infrastructure i.e. spend money on bike paths and not new roads as one example, its an approach that is being used in cities in Malaysia and even Perth.

    1. Have you been to Glen Innes recently? I think you may need to ask the community what they want (safety, employment and good schools would be my guess- rather than cycleways for gentrifiers. Or can we just kick everybody out then start again with some physical determinism.

      1. I don’t think he’s advocating to gentrify the area, rather saying that more roads aren’t a good thing to spend money on/base a new development around. The things that you mentioned are, and transit links and having a walkable suburb will help with that. Glen Innes and Panmure are well connected by train, so it would seem silly not to have better footpaths and cycle paths that link up with the train station, rather than new roads – especially as most roads in the GI-Tamaki-Panmure area are pretty good, and quite a few have been improved/added recently.

      2. We are going to be rebuilding large parts of Glen Innes and Panmure, might as well put things like bicycling infrastructure in now so that as people move into the area (or back into it) they have the options available to them.

        As for what the residents want, many don’t want any change because they have in some cases being living in state houses for decades and think it is their right to stay in them forever.

        Poul – If you have any copies of what is planned, let us know as I’m keen to see them. The Tamaki redevelopment is such a huge opportunity to get some good urban outcomes but I fear that opportunity will be squandered by people with not enough vision or understanding. I also worry that due to so many govt/council organisations being involved, they will play things too safe and not take bold risks.

        1. Hi Matt

          Yes more than happy to send on what I have including the PD for the ceo of the Tamaki Redevelopment Company, a draft anyway. Is there a address I can email it to?

          In terms of the state housing, its interesting that that some people believe it is there right to stay in them forever. I imagine that change, voluntary or otherwise, will be a shock. State housing in OZ is generally given to the most needy and vulnerable, so it will be interesting as the housing stock in Glen Innes and Panmure change both in type, density and in other ways how those currently living there will cope, given that communities can also change, if more immigrants move in and other areas increase in density and value.

          The lost opportunity re vision might have already happened. I spoke with the CEO a while back ad asked what the vision for community engagement was, the usually really tokenistic community consultation or a model based on participation and empowerment with a degree of devolution in decision making, which you would use when coming up for a vision for an area if renewal really is a driver. Informed that the stakeholders i.e. Aukland CC and Housing NZ would not support the participatory model.

          1. Hard to disagree. The danger is that NZ Govt and Auckland Council will just simply tell the residents (and community) what is good for them saying ‘here is our nice looking plan’. Then they will say by the way ‘there will not be any houses for half of you’. The ugly spectre of community clearance will actually do more harm than good in the long run if they are not careful, in my opinion.

      3. How are cycleways “gentrifier” things? Cycling is one of the most equitable ways to travel. A perfectly adequate bike can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, and costs essentially nothing to run. Enrique Penalosa was right that good cycling infrastructure empowers the poor, where building motorways only makes them spend their wages on petrol for rattle-trap cars.

        1. A key point, Max. Bicycles are also easier to equitably subsidise (community bike programmes, bike sharing, etc) — it could be arranged to cost the end user almost nothing to get started.

          Bob, we could also ask the community in GI what transport future they want for their children, if not immediately for themselves. I bet cycleways will rank highly. In fact, many communities had their say on the RLTP not long ago, and this was a theme across the board.

        2. Yes it shows the effect of generations of auto dependency that bikes and PT are seen as somehow benefitting the wealthy while cars are seen as wanted/needed by the poor. Of couyrse in almost every other country in the world the complete opposite is clearly the case.

          Did anyone see the recent controversy in Delhi where motorists were demanding that bus lanes be removed as they were holding up traffic? The motorists were quite candid and just said “we are more important than PT users so we should have priority”. I am sure a lot of motorists in NZ, the RTF and the AA would love to say that out loud if they thought they could get away with it.

          1. In India the caste system makes such comparisons totally overt. Here they just think it but don’t say it.

            On a curious semi-related note, I walked my girlfriend to the bus stop one night to get the link home. The bus driver saw us saying our goodbyes and asked her “why don’t you get yourself a man with a car?”. The old “bus users are losers” line coming from the bus driver himself!

  5. Bob has a fair point in terms of the community as it relates to employment, safety and good schools. Half of the area is owned by Housing NZ and their core target I gather is now people at risk ie people with disabilities and immigrants to add to the community. Another element is environmental health. Each of the areas that make up Tamaki have significant Maori and Pacific islander populations that suffer very high rates of obesity and diabetes, which if you change the design of the places, create transport choices, i.e. easy and attractive to walk and cycle if you want to rather than confined to the car, and supported by land use changes that will promote things closer to people which will again reduce the need to drive. Much of what I just mentioned is not rocket science in any way and has been used in a host of places in urban renewal.

    Liz the train stations are the jewels in the crowns in some ways and would require densification around them if they are to become effective transit hubs. I wonder if the Unitary Plan will support heights in vicinity of 4 to 5 stories, then slowly moving down to lower densities.

    I might add that the renewal is a process of change from the here and now to some future state which I gather has yet to be defined. How that change is communicated and developed will be one of the keys to success.

  6. There is a lot more useful data in the source report:

    Here are some summary points from the chapter on Productivity:

    – Most of the industry sectors that are experiencing rapid growth as a proportion of the
    economy are located in city centres and rely on increasing job densities to drive their
    – After reaching a peak in 2005, per capita urban passenger transport (the number of
    kilometres travelled per person) has declined more steeply and for a longer period than
    since the Great Depression.
    – The decline has been led by a reduction in car travel offset by some increase in heavy rail.

    And on page 92, “…improving the efficiency of urban transport systems by putting people in their economically optimal location within a total travel time of 90 minutes [which is their daily travel time budget] may be the key to improving the productivity of cities.”

    There is plenty of juicy material for questions from Julie about whether the government is genuine about improving labour productivity in NZ by enabling aggregation of responsive industries, particularly in the transaction-based industries such as finance. Or whether by their inaction on facilitating high employment density, NZ will increasingly offshore these growing industries.

Leave a Reply