Interesting news out this morning of a report, paid for by the government and Auckland into the economic competitiveness of the NZ economy. While the whole report hasn’t been released yet, information has emerged about a chapter in it relating to Auckland. The report has been put together by Hong Kong-based Professor Michael Enright and another expert, Michael Porter. It appears that the report has been fairly critical of the current state of Auckland however positively it does suggest that we are going in the right direction, just not fast enough. The report follows on from a similar one from him done in the 90’s on the same issue.

Auckland, Professor Enright said, lacked entertainment and cultural facilities, still depended on cars to get around and needed to move the container port off the most important piece of land in New Zealand for an iconic building.

“We should ask, ‘What is the value of the Sydney Opera House to Sydney, or the Eiffel Tower to Paris?’

“While foreign impressions of Auckland are positive, very few foreigners can name a single thing that is distinctive about the city,” the report said.

Some of his strongest criticism was directed at the CBD, calling the $45 million upgrade of the Aotea Centre a “concrete jungle” and bemoaning the lack of a world-class entertainment or nightlife district, like a Times Square.

“Queen St, which should be the Champs Elysees, the Fifth Ave of Auckland, is deteriorating … there is limited outdoor cafe culture near the city centre.”

Professor Enright said Auckland’s first priority should be a mass transit system, including the city rail loop, followed by revitalising the CBD – calling the $45 million upgraded Aotea Square a “concrete jungle” – and an end to urban sprawl in favour of an “overall denser Auckland”.

That would lead to a “complete change” in what Aucklanders consider the ideal lifestyle, including giving up the house in the suburbs and the car.

Many of these ideas are contained in the Auckland Plan – a 30-year blueprint for the city – but Professor Enright said the plan was not bold enough and Auckland might arrive in 2040 prepared for 2022.

Personally I’m not convinced for the need for an iconic building on the waterfront, but in general I agree with many of the sentiments. As with my post this morning, I think that many of the projects in the Auckland plan are good but do need some re prioritisation. You can also hear a report on this from Radio NZ below.

Or listen here.

But naturally a report like this, which generally supports the council in the key areas of housing and transport doesn’t sit well with the Government. Steven Joyce has already criticised the report and blamed officials for organising it.

Or listen here.

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  1. I just had a conversation with a tourist about this this week. She asked what is Auckland famous for? I said museum, waiheke, piha. More natural features than anything. Nothing really memorable by world standards but as a whole package great. She also agreed on the poor public transport being an issue and CBd not lively enough.

    1. Exactly. Let’s stop trying to be the same as other cities when we already have some very unique and amazing geographical sites all around us. Keep adding to the vibrancy of our downtown area but add in the PT and cycling infrastructure that these cities have and build a fantastic combination. First up – pedestrianize Queen St every Sunday (for a start).

  2. How about more than 50 volcanos, that’s pretty unique!

    And in a few years time, I think Wynyard Quarter will the entertainment district that they are looking for.

    1. I don’t think wynnard is being created as an entertainment district. Aotea is the being geared for this with the rejuvented st james. The nightlife district maybe fort, viaduct, britomart once quay st is improved and geared more to people not cars.

      1. The Auckland Art Gallery is now something incredible, and should be part of what we cherish and show to the world. Link it, the St James, the Civic, Sky City Theatre, The Classic, The Q, and pull in a few more restaurants and nightclubs, and you’ve got an excellent cultural/entertainment district.

        Link them all to a restored waterfront, and you’re starting to get an excellent city. I believe we’ve got what it takes to be better than Sydney and Melbourne, and they should be our benchmarks. They’re considered among the best in the world, and we should aim to beat them on every measure.

        1. I dont rate sydney that high, but definitely Melbourne. But our art gallery is truely world class, up their with the best. The museum also beats allot of cities attempts!

          1. I include Sydney because it’s a stunning-harbour city. They get a lot wrong, but they do get plenty right, and among major cities in the world it’s one of the ones we’re most familiar with. Still, we should be looking to elements, and how various cities do things better than others, and we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to the local Anglosphere. I’d also love to see the Manukau, Auckland’s second harbour, opened up to become a major feature in our urban psyche.

            Plenty of New Zealanders go overseas, and stay there. They do so for a number of reasons – better cities shouldn’t be one.

      2. Rharris- exactly. The Entertainment/ Times Square area should be one single place, not part in Midtown and part at Wynyard, I’m pretty sure areas don’t work that way. Council are nuts to be giving the ATC $10M to put a theatre NOT in the Entertainment Area- no wonder we don’t have a bloody Times Square.

        Agree with the bloke’s comments re Aotea Centre and Square (?), embarrassing hodge podge of ideas. It may ;look great from the 15th floor of the Council building but at ground level it doesn’t work..

        1. The area around Aotea Square is not conducive to an entertainment centre. You have serious land use issues, the square, Myer’s Park, Albert Park, AUT and large corporate buildings. The areas around Fort Street, High Street and Britomart still have heritage buildings which provide a bit of character is a much better location. Not surprisingly hospitality in this area is thriving. Plus it’s only a ten minute walk from Aotea Square.

  3. Joyce was very sniffy about the whole report as I heard the interview this morning.
    Basically, he said its wasn’t value for money (despite admitting his officials had organised it “behind his back”) – and as it doesn’t factor in previous and current government changes its therefore its out of date and wrong.

    He also brushed off the questions to the comments Enright made about changes in PT saying “Talk to Gerry (Brownlee) about that” – despite Enright making a link between .Economic Development (Joyces portfolio) and PT and saying that ensuring a compact CBD (and wider City) is a must.

  4. Foreign experts have been recommending improvements for Auckland since the 1950s. Have the people that matter listened? Nope.

  5. People keep saying that Auckland isn’t London, it isn’t Paris, New York or even Sydney, which is all very correct. Auckland is a city on two harbours with around 50 volcanic cones. It is green, it has a waterfront (which isn’t that bad), it is young in years, it has a wide variety of people and is not all of those other cities. If you want old buildings go to London and Paris (they’ll also give you bad smog too). If you want reliable infrastructure don’t go to Sydney etc etc.
    Joyce only wants want he wants and has always been that way even back to his days in radio. If something is put forward by him it’s got to be good.
    Certainly the city can be improved massively, but it doesn’t have to be like another city and should remain as Auckland, not a cheap copy-cat. Also masses of cheap apartment blocks blotting the landscape doesn’t make a great city.
    Trees and greenery always help so does having people around. A waterfront stadium would have helped too, but infighting stuffed that and having a big council isn’t going to assist with a lot of future planning.

    1. Totally agree, way too many people se to think Auckland should just be another overcrowded city centre. Aren’t there enough of those all ready?
      Our geography and scenery is unique I truly hope it isn’t spoilt by the intensifiers

      1. I think its more likely to be spoilt by sprawl than intensification. Intensification can occur in the land already taken up by the city, while sprawl needs to swallow more of our precious greenery and scenery!

  6. Joyce still playing the “previous government” card in their second term, while “not being political about this”

  7. Got to remove cars out of the CBD let them go to the Sylvia Parks etc, make transport options more appealing to town and whilst in town. Create shared spaces, extend queen street at least the bottom half to a bus lane each way (with room for stops to not hold up other buses) also allowing emergency vehicles and footpath/shared space engulfing the parks and roads etc. CRL and yep boom cbd would be mad.

  8. Auckland is the only metropolis in the world built atop an active volcanic field. That’s a pretty awesome claim to fame, but I bet nobody else who commented here knew that. I only found out when I was doing an assignment for uni on civil defence. We could do so much better at proclaiming it to the planet and marketing it as an attraction, but it’s a footnote, at best.

    1. Matt,
      Technically the Auckland Volcanic field is is a monogenetic Volcanic field.

      These are not unique, quite a few monogenetic volcanic fields round the world actually. But probably Auckland is the only city (dumb enough?) to be built on top of one as you say.

      Monogenetic means each volcano is separate to the all the others and erupts once or maybe twice in its life before its spent.

      See the book “Volcanoes of Auckland The Essential Guide” – its a really good book has lots of info..
      You can buy it at
      (Not that I have anything to do with these Wheelers guys – its just a online webshop that does sell it.)

      1. And which single thing you said contradicts anything I said? Unless monogenetic means that the field is not active until another cone pops up? Which is not consistent with what I read while doing my research. Regardless of the type of field, no other large city is built atop one that is not thoroughly extinct.

        1. Wasn’t contradicting you, Just clarifying and showing, yes I already knew the fact – which is what you betted about no one else here knowing.

          The reason why most countries aren’t like Auckland (and don’t build on volcanoes) is that they’re usually like Mt Vesuvius in Italy (or the Central North Island volcanoes)

          – i.e. big towering things with steep slopes that make it obvious what they are so most folks keep clear of them when laying out a city and/or they’re not where the people are so its not a problem.
          – Or they didn’t and the volcano eventually blew up taking the city along with it in the past (as happened in the Mediterranean area at least once or twice).

          For Auckland’s case wasn’t so obvious thats what they all were when city was being built and they were little hills only 200 meters tall at best – not exactly Mt Doom scale – so easy to build on and around (and quarry away for roads). The last “on land” volcanic eruption is currently known to be Mt Wellington (and not long before that – Purchas Hill, just north of Mt Wellington – alas no longer in existence just a stub of its former glory near where College Road and Morrin roads meet)

          And no – monogenetic doesn’t mean only one at a time can erupt – it does appear from the ash records that in past more than one volcano has been active in Auckland at the same time.

          While Auckland could claim to be unique in being built on a volcanic field, plenty of places elsewhere have been built pretty near a (thought to be extinct) volcano, only to be trashed the next time it erupted.
          Montserrat in the Caribbean is but the latest of these, with the main city (Plymouth) pretty much ruined by volcanic activity.
          As no doubt Auckland itself would be the next time another magma “bubble” pops it head near or even above the ground..

    2. Now imagine a much denser urban environment together with protected sightlines to the volcanoes. They will stand out even more.

    3. One reason that people don’t know that they’re all volcanoes is as one person has pointed out that they’re really not that spectacular to look at (even less so now we’ve quarried half of them to nothing). I’m not sure that there’s a lot of mileage in what in the end amounts to a city that happens to have a large number of smallish hills. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Auckland is built on a volcano field, and visitors are always impressed when I tell them (and show them from up on Mt Eden), but I don’t think it’s the killer app as far as promoting Auckland as a city destination. That would be actually turning it into a properly functioning city.

  9. “We could do so much better at proclaiming it to the planet and marketing it as an attraction”

    Quite. The ‘A’ branding carefully developed for Auckland a few years back echoes our volcanoes in both colour and shape:

    Reasoning and research sadly ignored by both Council and AT in their more amateurish subsequent logo design exercises.

    1. Exactly Sacha. The brand Auckland is (in my opinion at least) a fantastic piece of urban branding. Of course, the masses in the NZ Herald will always rubbish it and call for a sweeping logo featuring the hint of a Rangitoto outline with a couple of sails floating on by, but those are brands which belong in the early 90s. It is one of my frustrations with Auckland, it’s urban branding. We have a cutting edge dynamic logo with the A, and it seems to be there is always a reluctance in using it. It works so well though.

  10. The frayed ‘A’ is not without its problems, but at least a proper process was followed. Ignoring that seems senseless.

  11. Do we know the status of this brand? I am hoping that Auckland Council aren’t going to want to gradually get rid of it and replace it with their own council logo. This is one of the few times in NZ that a complete branding exercise got it right. It’s not just about a logo, it’s about an experience. Unfortunately the nature of many Kiwis is that they can’t understand the fuss about branding and the difference between a logo and a branding exercise. The A logo just reeks of Auckland. The colours seem so appropriate, the dynamic nature of it, the story of it – it fits really well. It is right up there with Melbourne’s *M* or flipcards, Stockholms simplistic capital of Scandanavia . I’d also put it above some of the most recent branding exercises such as Gold Coast’s pink dot.

    1. Another Nat from the countryside who knows everything about what Aucklanders want and cities need. They really are doing a great job of presenting themselves as a bunch of corrupt country bumpkins working for their sprawl developer mates…. So it goes, sadness accrues…..

      1. it’s interesting how the democratic process imposed on local government, i.e. consult, consult, consult, differs from the deomocratic process for central government, i.e. we’re elected and we’ll do what we want

        1. Look to Canterbury – if you don’t like it, just sack the Regional Council and replace it with hand-picked commissioners, put the Local Government under special supervision & emergency laws (the earthquake was years ago, but they can still ride roughshod over a lot of people)… – its power grabbing, pure and simple. And that in a country where the real power (i.e. the purse strings) is already extremely centralised.

  12. I call your attention again to this link –

    …and Gen X-ers again. Currently in family mode. This group will happily continue to vote in a government who will provide them with so-called low cost super-sized mac-mansions on fields of mediocrity sprawling to infinity……….unless attractive alternatives can be offered. This group are the swing voters who have the power to change government and change government policy.

    Is there scope for some form of Auckland Council funded housing competition that can offer prize money good enough to attract our best and brightest architects and planners?

    At the moment, it is too easy for the government to paint intensification as a simple and powerful image of Asian high-rise towers. Why would you want a shoe-box apartment when you could have a low cost, spacious Mac-mansion in the ‘burbs, complete with double garage? If the government are able to continue to set the agenda in this way, they are going to win this battle. Yes they are in the process of taking control of local government in a manner that would have made Muldoon proud. But they are doing so because 50% of voters are happy for them to do so. If just 5% of those voters can be persuaded to prefer an alternative vision, the government will have to revise its thinking or lose the next election.

    In the meantime, there are the upcoming local body elections this year that is a must win for Len Brown and his team.

    Someone, somehow has to replace the image of the shoe-box apartment with that kaleidoscope of perfect urban living that we just know is so much better.

    Heck – we’ve just had a season of “The Block Australia” that showcased attractive terrace living in Melbourne……. That’s millions of dollars worth of free publicity!

      1. That looks pretty damn good. It’s such a shame that even the little terraced housing we do have in Auckland is leaky, ugly, leasehold, or in weird gated communities.

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