This is a guest post by Christchurch resident and urbanist Brendon Harre. An earlier iteration of this post originally appeared at Making Christchurch

Is Christchurch a provincial market town, or a diversified commercial city?

Sheep sale, Addington (ca 1920s)

Sheep sale, Addington, Christchurch, [ca 1920s]

Recently on the transportblog website Stu Donovan someone who I respect for his expert analysis and articles, wrote the following, as a comment about Auckland’s population growth.

…. I only wish central government policy-makers grasped that distinction. That while the rest of the country depends on good roads, Auckland city will increasingly depend on public transport and walking/cycling. That while the rest of the country depends on an efficient agricultural sector, Auckland depends on a diverse and innovative service sector….

Stu of course is allowed his opinion and I believe it comes from a good place. He loves the urban culture of Auckland and can see ways to improve it for all our benefit (a stronger Auckland strengthens NZ). The problem I have is the implication that the rest of the country doesn’t have or need an urban culture –that all they need from the government is some roads and an efficient agriculture sector.

For instance, I think Christchurch needs support to restore and grow its urban economy and this too would help New Zealand. In the 2013 census, Greater Christchurch’s population was 436,000. After a post-earthquake dip in 2011 and 2012, population growth has been strong at about 8,000 new residents per year and by the end of 2015 it is likely the metropolitan area has around 450,000 people. If growth drops down to a more typical increase of 4,000 to 6,000 per year then the city can expect to hit the ½ million mark by around 2025. This is a long way behind Auckland, which reached the ½ million mark in the 1960s, but by international standards it is significant.

Canterbury pop growth

If Christchurch was a city in the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, then it would be the 6th largest city. Gothenburg in Sweden is the 5th largest city and has a population of 550,000. Tampere in Finland is the 6th largest city with a population of 317,000.

These cities are proud of who they are and would not accept being labelled provincial market towns. Gothenburg gives the world Volvo. While Nokia, which birthed the phone company of that name is a satellite town of Tampere. Mid-sized commercial cities, which is what Christchurch is, have more to offer than a nice leg of lamb or a surplus of milk powder. Of course you don’t even need to be a city to offer the world something more than raw commodities. Lego’s home town and still where Lego’s head office is located -is the small town of Billund in Denmark–population 6,000.

Denmark should be a fascinating place for New Zealand, because they have done something we in New Zealand struggle with. Before New Zealand was supplying the UK with food, Denmark had reconfigured its economy so that the UK would take all its bacon and butter. By 1900, 60% of Denmark’s exports were food items to the UK. Yet somehow in the intervening years Denmark has diversified their economy in a way that New Zealand has not. Perhaps, because Denmark embraced a diversity of new concepts, such as design, this has allowed them to progress their economy?

Made in Denmark

Further, Denmark has done it in a way that has given their people higher incomes and arguably at a lower environmental impact. I have asked various experts how Denmark has achieved this and nobody really has an answer. Most recently, I asked Michael Riddell former Reserve Bank economist and now blogger at CroakingCassandra.com. There seems to be no clear consensus on what New Zealand could be doing differently, although we both gave our opinions.

In Christchurch’s case it is slowly getting back its mojo from the devastating series of earthquakes five years ago. For instance, Canterbury has been the hub of outdoor design and manufacture since Fairydown, a Dunedin based sleeping bag firm created by the Ellis family in the 1920s was sold off to international interests in the 1980s. The next generation of the family set up Earth, Sea and Sky based in Christchurch, to be with other similar outdoor orientated companies. Earth, Sea and Sky have a philosophy of using local talent to create and make specialised garments here in our own back yard.  Macpac a garage start-up done good, is another firm in the outdoor design and manufacture cluster. A recent entry into the outdoor equipment stable is a firm –Uprising Climbing Holds -that makes rock climbing holds and exports them to the world. After the central city YMCA climbing gym was knocked out of action the company built a new gym near the trendy Tannery shopping complex in Woolston. The gym as well as being a business in its own right has the important side benefit of providing research and development information on new holds for the company.

Uprising climbing holds

Uprising Boulder Gym owner Sefton Priestley in the climbing room where customers test new climbing holds.

On another track, Tait Communications is a genuine Christchurch based export success story –it makes radios for emergency services and for the likes of London’s buses. It has had a tough year; revenues have retreated from earlier highs of over $200m to about $160m-$170m. Despite this setback they remain optimistic, recently targeting Rio Olympic security concerns and achieving big increases in sales through that marketing route.

tait-communications-new-building-construction-2014-1024x768

The $35 million Tait campus development is set on 11ha of land alongside Tait’s existing buildings and features the construction of an über energy efficient new headquarters for up to 350 of its Christchurch-based employees

These examples demonstrate the diversified strength of Christchurch’s commercial city that is independent of Canterbury’s farming hinterland.

In the normal course of events I would have shrugged off Stu’s comments. He expressed an opinion, I was able reply with an opinion, which got some favourable comments –so no harm done on transportblog, just some healthy debate.

My opinion which I wrote at the time being;

…. if NZ developed a post farming economy based around a diversified urban economy of agglomeration, affordable housing, good transport provision, attractive amenities for skilled workers and business etc, that is often discussed here on tranportblog, then Christchurch would be the biggest winner.

But I have noticed the ‘urban Auckland versus the rural rest’ opinion is quite widespread and being touted by some pretty influential individuals. I wonder if it is the spreading of these sort of cultural/political ideas that is holding us back?

The newly formed Committee for Canterbury chair Gill Cox recently had this to say.

Boiling it down, it starts with the economic truth that the fates of Christchurch city and its rural hinterland are absolutely intertwined. “Christchurch is a market town,” says Cox simply. “Christchurch would struggle even to have a reason for being if Canterbury were not there. The economic driver is not the city but the region.” This is why it ended up as the Committee for Canterbury rather than the Committee for Christchurch, he says. The divergence from the “committee for” movement’s city-based template was quite deliberate. Cox says before the earthquakes, Christchurch had become somewhat politically disconnected from this fact. It had dreams about being a world-class small city riding the high tech “knowledge-wave” — a mini-Copenhagen at the bottom of the world.

Of course, says Cox, Christchurch should still want to do its best on this score. But really, as a long-term strategy, it just pits the city against every other city….

Christchurch has to concentrate on its true natural advantages, says Cox. And when it comes to NZIER’s analysis, these are simply the two things that Canterbury can be a premium-quality food basket for the world, and that Christchurch can get a free ride in being the tourist and freight gateway for the South Island.

Again, news that is no surprise for those who are in business in Canterbury. But Cox says our politicians and the general public may not have the same tight focus on how the region’s bread is buttered….

Note how in Gill Cox’s opinion Christchurch is a market town not a city, that economic opportunities lie in rural not urban areas (with the exception of the city being a freight and tourist gateway) and that wanting to be a diversified economy like Denmark’s is ‘disconnected’ and ‘dreaming’.

I don’t think Gill Cox speaks for all businesses –I think many city-based businesses would be surprised about his bias. Gill Cox’s comment that the general public cannot focus on how the region’s ‘bread is buttered’, is in my opinion code for saying that the region’s economy should be directed by ‘experts’ such as himself and that democracy and debate is unnecessary. That there is no need for Canterbury to have a public conversation on how regional public resources should be allocated.

Gill Cox CfC Case

Gill Cox delivers Committee for Canterbury’s Case for Canterbury at November launch party.

If Gill Cox was just a chair of an obscure think tank then his opinion wouldn’t matter much, but he is one of six NZTA board members (the board can have up to eight members). The board is appointed by the Minister of Transport and is responsible for making independent decisions on allocating and investing funds from the National Land Transport Fund.

Transport as everyone knows on transportblog is one of the key determinants of how a city grows. NZTA is the key funder for new transport projects. Local authorities spend a lot of money on transport, but it is mainly on maintenance –they lack the financial resources to go it alone with new projects –the existing framework of local government taxation means local authorities have to co-operate with NZTA funding with regard to new projects. Unfortunately for the commercial city of Christchurch it has a funder who is completely dismissive of its needs. For example, with Gill Cox’s attitude what are the chances that Greater Christchurch will get commuter rail or any other rapid transport solution to solve its congestion problems, as has been proposed by Christchurch City Council?

Christchurch congestion

Congested Christchurch streets

The NZTA has a history of being biased against Canterbury in the 2002 to 2012 period, when the NZTA significantly underspent in the region compared to elsewhere, the cynic in me says that will continue, at least for city residents and businesses, if not for the whole region. Recent per capita spending doesn’t look so bad for Canterbury. But considering the infrastructure deficit from a decade of under spending, the amount of earthquake damaged roads, the dispersal of residents post-quakes and the strong population growth (second fastest growing region in NZ). Then Canterbury is due for some high NZTA spending — will Gill Cox and his other Board members agree to that and if they do, which new transport projects will get funding?

I wonder if Gill Cox has read the research about how transport can improve a city’s productivity and income. Alain Bertaud in his paper –‘Cities as Labour Markets’ -compiled the following studies.

In Korean cities, a 10% increase in the number of jobs accessible per worker corresponds to a 2.4% increase in workers’ productivity.

Additionally, for 25 French cities, a 10% increase in average commuting speed, all other things remaining constant, increases the size of the labor market by 15 to 18%.

In the US, Melo et al. show that the productivity effect of accessibility, measured by an increase in wages, is correlated to the number of jobs per worker accessible within a 60-minute commuting range. The maximum impact on wages is obtained when the number of jobs accessible within 20-minutes increases; within this travel time, a doubling in the number of jobs results in an increase in real wages of 6.5%. Beyond 20 minutes of travel time, worker productivity still increases, but its rate decays and practically disappears beyond 60 minutes.

Both papers demonstrate that workers’ mobility –their ability to reach a large number of potential jobs in as short a travel time as possible, is a key factor in increasing the productivity of large cities and the welfare of their workers. Large agglomerations of workers do not insure a high productivity in the absence of worker mobility. The time spent commuting should, therefore, be a key indicator in assessing the way large cities are managed. (p. 24, 25).

Given the way people were re housed after the Canterbury earthquakes -being population fell in central/inner city areas and increased in distant peripheral satellite towns then it is likely that congestion and commuting times have increased. Also the number of jobs accessible by workers in 20 minutes has probably declined. This means Greater Christchurch’s economic potential has been setback and it will not be remedied until Canterbury receives a compensatory improvement in transport infrastructure.

On the issue of whether it is better to be a market town or a diversified commercial city, research from around the world shows that market towns have the lowest income when it comes to the different types of cities.

City Types

Note the small share of value added that agriculture (in black) contributes even in market towns. Cities are competitive diversified economies and to function at their best they need to be supported as such.  Christchurch as a market town is the past. Christchurch as a modern, diverse, competitive commercial city is the future.

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33 comments

      1. From memory, Christchurch has been pretty active in pushing tougher domestic heating bylaws and encouraging conversion of industrial boilers. Seems to be aware of the problem and doing something about it.

  1. It’s a false dichotomy. Why do we have to choose between one flavour of capitalism (a market town) and another “a diversified commercial city”?

    Why can’t cities be more than simply a means for people to make dollars/cents/yen/rupees/marks?

    Can’t they be socio-cultural engines instead? Or are cities merely supplicants in the temple of Mammon?

    1. I think unfortunately through history it’s always been like this. Venice became Venice thanks to the income from trade, Florence thanks to the Medici banks, Rome thanks to Jesus’ money.

    2. I think you have a valid point – cities offer amenity both for producers (firms and workers) and consumers (households). Different cities specialise in one or the other to a different degree, and either strategy can succeed in attracting people.

      However, most people are both consumers *and* producers, and so they naturally tend to want both. In that context, it is sensible to ask whether the city will have a successful economy that provides job opportunities.

        1. New Zealand is a mixed market economy. It might be reasonable to disagree with that model, or think that the lines between market, state, and non-market civil society should be set at different points.

          But I’d argue that it’s not especially relevant to the purpose of this blog. This is transportblog, not smashcapitalismblog.

  2. The geography is against it; You simply can’t compare it with european towns of the same size, they are part of a single market of 350m+ people.

    Christchurch is too far away from it’s potential markets. Sure it’ll have niche high end businesses in things like software. However the critical mass just isn’t there. In a country of 4.5m people, there is only going to be one city

    Auckland thrives as the defacto capital of NZ with just about enough scale to cope, it’s the destination choice for new migrants, from Asia in particular.

    1. All cities in Australasia face the distance/isolation problem. Yet they exist. The most isolated city is probably not Christchurch but Perth.

  3. Perth has 4 times the population of Chch so has scale to cope, it’s also in the same time zone as Singapore.

    With direct flights between them there are effectively 4 large cities on the east coast of Australia, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland.

  4. thanks for the kind words Brendon …

    I find your post interesting. And I’d support Christchurch becoming a metropolitan city rather than a provincial town.

    Two necessary (but not necessarily sufficient!) conditions spring to mind:
    – Policy support, which you discuss at length and obviously requires a democratic mandate; and
    – Population growth, which would need to ramp up to high levels and be sustained for long periods.

    To achieve the outcome you have in mind, i.e. metropolitan city, then CHC would probably need to grow to around 1 million people. This would probably occur in the context of NZ as a whole growing to approximately 8 million people. At which point you could quite easily see a lot of growth spilling from Auckland into other regional cities, such as CHC.

    1 million seems to be a bit of a threshold for critical levels of specialisation, which in turn result in agglomeration economies in denser areas, which in turn drive concentrated travel demands. You can see this at work in cities such as Perth and Calgary, both of which grew from provincial towns to metropolitan city.

    I agree with you though: If you knew that becoming a metropolitan city was the ultimate end goal, then you’d probably do things differently right now, both in terms of transport and land use.

      1. Great article thanks Patrick. I look forward to seeing its message ignored by the government as does not marry up with their pre-determined philosophy. Can’t let silly things like examples in very similar places and facts the in the way of neolib ideology.

  5. I think the under-investment in Christchurch by NZTA and its predecessors goes back more than 2002. In fact I’d go back 2+ decades before that – as far as 1982, possibly earlier.

    The obvious example was the Northern Motorway and an additional crossing of the Waimakariri river has been long overdue. Without that crossing Christchurch and all points south will suffer as the connectivity is throttled down to two skinny road crossings.
    It was fortunate that neither of these crossing was severely damaged in the ‘quakes, it doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened had one of the bridges had to be closed due to ‘quake damage.

    However, I think the issues with eCan that preceded the ‘quakes, highlight the underlying tensions and what had become a major problem by the time the government sacked eCan and replaced it with its own puppets.
    The needs of Canterbury province and the needs of Chrsitchurch as a city as linked, but not necessarily tied at the hip, as the Government assumed/assumes.

    Christchurch needs to become a Supercity, it simply can’t have a regional authority like eCan dictating from afar how its to act, because the “agricultural” side of the Canterbury economy will always override the needs of Christchurch if so.

    If eCan remain in control, then Christchurch will remain for quite some time, nothing more than an agricultural service centre, like it was historically.

    The founding fathers for Christchurch envisioned a much broader and bolder view than a “farm town” for the Christchurch settlement, yes, the needs of the day post settlement meant that that is what is was for many decades.

    But perhaps its time that the original destiny planned for Christchurch were dusted off, re-examined, updated were needed and then properly enacted?

    The ‘quakes represented a golden opportunity to re-imagine/actually implement that destiny, but the day to day grind of post-‘quake Christchurch means that this opportunity has been lost, or at least delayed by quite some time.

    Doesn’t mean its no longer valid or possible, but the old saying is very true here: “Its hard to remember you came to drain the swamp, when you’re up to your arse in alligators.”

    And I think historically Christchurch has been “up to its arse in alligators” for a hundred and sixty years.

    I don’t see why given our present governments belief that all competition is good, why they don’t champion a “second city” concept as a “keep the bastards honest” option, along with also giving the nation a “life boat”.

    And if they did agree to this approach – which city would it be?

    Wellington as the “second city” perhaps? Its been tried, but it was never little more than a historic compromise, a mid-way point between the ends of the country – that was a compromised location in every meaning of the word from the start.

    Christchurch then? Yes, why not? Its already the second largest, and barring the ‘quakes its growth has been steady and positive.

    Yes as a location, its not perfect, it does have the “air quality” issue, it has other threats [Not least the Waimakariri river has flooded the city several times over the course of European settlement].

    And ‘quakes, although some would say [those without a good grasp of statistics that is], that Christchurch has now had its ‘quake, so it will be safe for some time now. A complete fallacy.
    Another big[ger] one could strike tomorrow and the Southern Alpine fault is ticking down to its next major event, with a 30% chance of that being in the next 50 years the Scientists at GNS said last year.

    So yes, Christchurch will never topple Auckland (barring some major natural event there – volcanic eruption or category 3+ Hurricane?) for sheer size and economic output in the foreseeable future.

    But a large part of the future is unseeable, so you have to plan for the unlikely as well as the likely. Its part of whatevery government of every size is tasked with doing.

    So surely logic of foreseeable and likely events would dictate that for the countries survival as a nation you need a place which can pick up the ball and run with it, should anything happen to the “number 1” city for any reason?

    A place with good transport links, an modern airport that can take the largest sized commercial airliners, good communications, available and skilled workforce. And room to grow.

    A sort of national “safe house” – just in case the unthinkable happens?

    So a back-up strategy, which gives Christchurch a hand up (not a hand out) is overdue, not only for their sake, but also for NZ Incs sake.

    So yes time for the Government and NZTA to sort out the festering sore of the river crossings just north of Christchurch, then once that is addressed.

    Then the Supercity option should be looked at to better balance the demands of Christchurch versus the rest of Canterbury. Allowing that they are linked and mutually dependant.

    That will let both Christchurch and Canterbury pilot their own future courses, without each dominating or tripping up the other.

    1. Maybe ChCh gets less transport spending because it is flat and hence transport projects cost less.
      Transport spending should be based on need, not on fairness. If ChCh has less need for transport spending than elsewhere, then it should get less. I know last time I was there (which admittedly was before the quakes), the roads seemed almost empty.

      1. Yes this is true but problematic. Auckland grew last year by one whole Wanganui, and could well keep doing that every year for a while…. the people in the current not growing Wanganui will not understand that means spending on infra in Auckland delivers returns over and above trying to entice people down to Wanganui with that money instead…

        Pop growth means long term infrastructure investments [transport, water, cultural, etc] not only affordable but much more likely to be productive. It means the structures necessary for a high standard of living become possible. Which is to say; these can only be built in growth phases, and it is vitally important that the best things in the right places are invested in at these times.

        An example is the great Victorian and Edwardian rail build-outs; these have provided huge value ever since. Cities as varied as London, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, and Wellington have grown productivity on those investments ever since.

        Check out just how valuable legacy rail systems are for these cities: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/americas-10-best-cities-commuting-public-transit/

        1. Unfortunately this idea that spending needs to be ‘fair’ only seems to apply to transport spending. Shouldn’t it apply to other government spending such as welfare, pensions, schools, etc?
          And why only look at the cost side of the equation? If Aucklander’s pay more on average in fuel tax (due to longer commutes) or on general tax (due to higher wages), shouldn’t Auckland then expect a greater share of the spending?

      2. Flat land makes sprawl easy (initially), except that Christchurch is hemmed in on 3 sides – the sea, a large braided river to the north, the Port Hills to the south.

        This means the easy sprawl options are all to the west. Which is what happened since the quakes.
        And yes that growth is easy to deliver, but then requires expensive motorway extensions, Public transport, sewage, drainage, water supply upgrades.

        And doesn’t lower NZ Incs carbon emissions either. We could get away with it this decade, next decade and beyond? Not so much.

        Time for a rethink.

  6. Interesting article Brendon. A couple thoughts:

    1. Like Stu, I tend to see population growth as an important enabler of urban economic growth in NZ. However, I’d focus a bit less on the overall *level* of population than the *rate* of change. The more new demand (for goods, services, housing, transport, etc) there is, the more opportunities there will be to develop or implement new ideas to meet demand. In that respect, smoothing out

    2. Cities can attract people either through productive amenities or through consumption amenities. Hard to say what the right balance of the two is – e.g. will a business park do more for your prospects than a mountain bike park – but I do think we under-rate the aesthetic side of cities in NZ.

    3. Following Jane Jacobs, I’d argue that export-led growth is not the be-all and end-all of urban development. She highlights import substitution as an important function of dynamic cities. To that end, I’d note that the Canterbury earthquakes gave Christchurch lots of new opportunities to develop local capability in professional services that were traditionally imported from other cities. (However, I like that you’ve highlighted outdoor sports equipment as an under-appreciated export sector!)

    1. Is population growth the best type of economic growth?
      I can expand my logging business by giving more people axes, or I can simply equip my existing workers with chainsaws.

      What Christchurch and all of NZ needs is to focus on GDP per capita. Same GDP but half the people is actually better than simply doubling GDP by doubling population

      1. That’s what Peter and Stu are saying; in order to grow productivity scale is important. That’s why cities exist. Read this again: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion-analysis/71741529/Stakes-are-high-with-super-cities-says-Australian-policy-analyst-John-Daley

        Sure, stay small, inefficient, and cruisy if you prefer, as Daley says, that’s an option, but many people like to kid themselves they can have both; more wealth but also no growth.

          1. There’s a really mixed message in that story Patrick.

            It uses 15 year old US data [from 2000!], which mashes together the data from all major US cities, so you can’t seperate Houston and Atlanta from NYC, and then basically concludes, once all the apples and pears are crushed together and the resulting juice analysed that:

            The large cities seem to have got away with it because they in large part relied a lot on mobility of workers, and also (urban) freeways to move people around to their jobs easier for those worker whose jobs are not near them and/or who don’t move to be near their jobs. Freeways mean these workers can travel at higher speeds [and cover vastly more distances] in the same time than cities without them. Meaning that the overall commute times for residents in larger cities don’t scale linearly as the models predict.

            But this just leads to this very ambivalent comment:

            “On one hand, the benefits of density and mobility suggest a need for compact development near transit lines; on the other hand, the benefits of freeway speed would seem to endorse a transportation status quo that centers on car travel… local initiatives that make commuting less tolerable might reduce overall productivity—and right now, for better or worse, commuting in American metros mostly means driving.”

            So driving is still gonna be king in the US?

            Yet we know that we can’t all drive everywhere in our SOVs in the future, even it we did 15 years ago and got away with it. The rules going forward are not the same.

            So whats it to be? Compact smart growth along transport corridors? Or more of the same – more simply driving everywhere?

            Well, Angel, [one of the Authors] says on that point:

            “The only realistic future, as far as I see, is replacing the car with driverless cars that are less polluting, require less road space and less parking space, and offer services for the car-less,” he emails. “Compact development along transport corridors is fine and I have nothing against it, but it is certainly not a comprehensive solution for cities that now have three out of four jobs outside these corridors.”

            I think the jury is still out on whether Robot cars, once they exist and become commonplace, will actually reduce pollution, need less road space, and/or parking.
            So all they (and by implication/extension NZ) are doing is betting the farm on some future technology nirvana that may never arrive in a timely fashion, nor may actually deliver the benefits assumed, nor in the way that is assumed.

            But are we in danger here if we follow this advice of letting the future shape us, rather than us shaping the future we actually want?

      2. I’d argue that, for NZ’s urban economy, faster per-capita income growth will tend to coincide with faster population growth. I’d expect bidirectional causality – i.e. faster income growth (especially relative to Australia) will cause more people to come or stay, and faster population growth will tend to foster increased agglomeration economies leading to faster income growth.

        There’s some empirical evidence for the latter proposition. For example, a 2013 RBNZ research note found that upticks in migration to NZ are followed by a more positive “output gap” – i.e. they result in higher GDP. (Predictably, they also raise real house prices.)

      3. Good post EC. NZ has had this massive level of immigration growth with little actual growth to show for it (ie if you remove the 1% or so annual population growth above natural increase from our annual GDP growth then our annual GDP growth looks fairly anaemic). We should be focusing more on increasing productivity and on quality rather than quantity when it comes to immigration.

  7. First, I think NZ needs more than one engine. Auckland is the engine and at present the only bright star we have. Christchurch is a city we can all hope grow to create a greater economic base for NZ. But I think the example of success companies shows whats lacking in NZ. Those companies are medium sized companies and would need to grow both organically but primarily through acquisitions of similar product groups to build size and create a company that can seriously compete for larger contracts and orders. The big is served by the big etc. A city like Christchurch desperately need 3 to 5 larger companies and a few investment vehicles that drive the city forward. Thats lacking.

    When we look at Denmark and Sweden we see that many of their companies are majority owned by foundations. Lego group, Maersk, Ikea, H&M, Ericsson etc etc. NZ only truly large company Fonterra also has an interesting ownership model. Maybe there is something to learn here. Farming (minus dairy of course) in NZ is also in desperate need of refinement and shifting from raw produce production to production of processed goods. Our meat industry isn’t exactly at the level that we see from for example Denmark or even Sweden where frozen food giants such as Findus started supplying half of Europe with prepackaged frozen meals.

    Having worked for Scandinavian companies for most of my career, I love anyone who use that part of the world as an example. There is so much for us to learn from Scandinavia or to be more accurate the Nordic Countries (so we include Finland too). Especially in regards to Human Resource, overseas sales, ownership structures and the structure around entrepreneurship and how we channel venture capital for new inventions. It would also help if we realise that NZ suffers from chronic low corporate productivity and we raised an awareness about this (Farmers HQ have larger HR and purchasing departments, than the worlds largest clothing retailer H&M at their Stockholm HQ – scary but true).

    One point though, when we make comparative points may I recommend that we use the same type of data. At present the post compares apples and oranges.
    Greater Christchurch population compared to Gothenburg city?
    Why not use Greater Gothenburg, wouldn’t that make more sense?
    Having visited Gothenburg, the city border cuts straight through neighbourhoods and is best resembled with old Auckland City and how it bordered North Shore, Manukau and Waitakere. Greater Gothenburgs population is 979.000.(scb.se). (There is also the Gothenburg region which adds another 350.000 or so to the total population number.)
    Id suggest a comparison with say Aarhus or Bergen should you choose to submit these thoughts to other media. Bergen has the added advantage that they have realised that they need rail to support their future transport needs and they have just started building a tram-system.

  8. Stu’s statement is quite simply bizarre from this vantage point. I choose to make my home in the most successful urban area in NZ–central Wellington 🙂

  9. Thanks for the comments. Especially Exciles. Sorry about getting Gothenburgs pop wrong. I am more confident about Tamperes pop in Finland. My wife is a Finn and i think the Nordic countries are lovely.

    I am on holiday so I can not reply in full.

    Happy 2016 everyone

  10. Isn’t Chch PT just a product of its environment?
    It is flat and open so great for cycling and bus routes, look at the Central bus station plus Orbiter plus 3 high freq routes – great simple coverage that Wellington and Auckland can’t match.

    But where are the anchors?
    There are no satellite cities and minimal towns, apart from Timaru there are no urban areas with more than 20k people.

    Wellington City for example has a little more than half the population of Christchurch City but their metro areas are about the same.
    But you can’t run a rail line 40 / 50km out of Chch and connect to 100-150k people, that’s what you can do twice in Wgtn running out to Kapiti District via Porirua City and up to Upper Hutt City via Hutt City.
    Both of those lines can then further be utilised for commuter extensions, Palmerston North City on the Kapiti line and Masterton / the Wairarapa province on the Hutt line.

    And CBD employment concentration isn’t as important as Auckland / Wellington so there is less peak commuting to the centre.

  11. “just pits the city against every other city”

    oh yes, so much better to focus only on agricultural commodities. Producing commodities is a real niche that pits us against hardly anyone right?

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