Yesterday it was revealed that the Council’s Design Champion, Ludo Campbell Reid has resigned.

Auckland Council’s General Manager of the Auckland Design Office, Ludo Campbell-Reid, has resigned from his role and will depart on Friday, 4 October.

Ludo has served Auckland for 13 years – he was appointed Auckland City Council’s first ever Design Champion in 2006 following recommendations of The Mayoral Task Force on Urban Design.

Following amalgamation he was appointed by the Auckland Transition Agency to lead the Environmental Strategy and Policy Department. In 2014 he was appointed to General Manager (Design Champion) of the Auckland Design Office.

“Along with my family, I have made the difficult decision to resign from my role. With the third term of Auckland Council coming to a close, it feels like a natural time for new adventures, both professionally and personally,” says Ludo.

“I have absolutely loved the last 13 years – it has been an incredible ride from the days of the pre-amalgamated city to the heady, fast-paced and exciting time of the new super city where we achieved many historic firsts.

“I’m tremendously proud of what the Auckland Design Office and the urban design programme has achieved and when I look back, I know that the city has been set on a new path and Auckland is in a much better position than when I found it. As an Urban Designer and City Planner nothing could be more satisfying.”

Ludo and his ADO team have made a massive contribution to the city and changed it for the better, particularly through projects such as the shared spaces and Lightpath.

His team also developed the 2012 City Centre Masterplan and are behind the current refresh that looks to make the city centre more pedestrian friendly through initiatives such as Access for Everyone.

Sadly, Ludo had increasingly become the focus of attacks by those who oppose all the positive changes to the city and quite substantially by Mayoral candidate John Tamihere.

What’s worrying is this is the second high-profile council officer to leave in less than a month with the Council’s Chief Sustainability Officer, John Mauro, leaving in September. In an interview with Stuff it was clear there was a lot of frustration at a lack of progress with comments such as:

  • What I see is a trend toward show-ponying,“;
  • We’ve got some good champions in our local elected officials, but there doesn’t seem to be a critical mass of people wanting to drive the ambition.“;
  • We go half way, we build some great projects and then we start hearing from people how crazy and radical we are, then we pull back and get scared.”

It has often appeared that both Ludo and John (and their teams) were trying to do good things but were often thwarted, fought or just not supported by others within the council and Auckland Transport who are more worried about moving cars, upsetting the usual complainers or trying to serve their own egos. In part I wonder if it’s because these teams, and particularly the ADO, kind of sit outside the more rigid council structures. For example, much of ADOs work involves changes to streets but those streets are technically ATs responsibility and (in the past at least) they’ve been fiercely opposed to ADO getting involved.

So as we continue to reinvent this city for the next generation it is more important than ever that we have people who can champion the city along with good urban design and planning. If anything, those roles need to be beefed up to help cut through the bureaucratic quagmire inside council. This would put Auckland in line with most large cities, where there are dedicated roles for this and who, like Ludo was, is the public face of design, planning and even strategy.

Not replacing Ludo and absorbing the ADO into the council and/or Auckland Transport would be one of the worst things council could do in this space – a sure-fire way of stifling progress. Perhaps if anything the council should combine all of the individual design teams from the council as well as all the CCOs into a single group that is then used by all council organisations so there’s not a case of different design teams ‘fighting’ each other.

If the council does choose a new champion/s it’s also important that person is supported. We’ve frequently seen the council supporting change at a high level but then, as John notes, getting scared the moment we try to implement anything a few vocal people complain. Often this results in the council undermining themselves and their stated goals and an example of this recently was Phil Goff’s non-committal of support speed limit changes in the city to improve road safety.

Anyway, All the best Ludo and let’s hope that whoever replaces you will be up to the task of championing the city and good urban design.

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35 comments

  1. This is very sad and very worrying.

    Auckland Council (and its CCOs) have a lot of “boring but competent managers” (arguably including Goff) but desperately few visionaries that can imagine how the place can be quite different in the future. Obviously a balance between both is needed, but if you only have managers then you’re unlikely to see change as a good thing, instead ending up being paralyzed by all the risks that it entails.

    1. I’d argue that the council has too many visionaries and lacks leadership that can create or oversee a structure that can effectively and in a timely manner plan, budget, schedule, design and build a quality city.
      Observation shows a general lack of commitment, action, progress, quality and a high cost.

      1. I agree about the lack of leadership, but not about having too many visionaries, nor that there’s a general lack of commitment. There are fantastic staff at Council and AT who – despite years and sometimes decades of frustration – are still soldiering on. That’s commitment.

        One problem is the leadership failing to support good basic plans of progress.

        In NYC, Janette Sadik-Khan Janette was able to do what she did because Bloomberg supported her. In Edinburgh, when the council approved the transformation plan it meant something. In Auckland, when similar plans are produced by visionaries and competent designers, Council “approves” the plan, and it then just gets undermined anyway.

        Another problem is that people get into middle management by working in a certain conservative risk-averse way, and see visionary ideas as a real threat to their careers. Surrounded by other like-minded “barriers to progress” they think their attitude is normal, and as a pack, they strip Auckland of progress.

        Another problem is that our councillors don’t understand the governance relationship. I was disgusted to hear a long-term ‘progressive’ councillor describe how she thought the Council governance of AT works recently – she said Council writes both the Letters of Expectation and the Statements of Intent. With Councillors neglecting their duty to understand the process to this level, where do we even start?

        We need integration in planning, but actually with the tonne of excellent documents Council and the CCO’s have produced, we’d see integrated planning if the mayor and councillors simply did they job of governing well to ensure the existing approved plans are followed.

        They’re not doing that.

        1. You’re right unfortunately, that our councillors are neglecting their jobs. That hurt us hugely in Takapuna where they just rubber-stamped a poor design from Panuku that set out to maximise land sales rather than protecting space for people.

          Ludo did lots of good work – for central Auckland only. We need more like him, and for them to also operate outside of the CBD like at Takapuna. He leaves with my thanks and best wishes.

        2. What I’m seeing in my neck of the woods is local board members pushing for substandard designs because they’re better than not doing anything, and a good design would never get through AT… if Councillors did their job, this wouldn’t be the case.

  2. The 2012 city centre master plan is a great document, full of ideas. At a public forum to meet the Auckland Design Office Ludo listed a number of changes from the last five years. Pink path, cycle ways, shared spaces, Ellen Melville Hall. Do hope voters support a progressive council next time round to move ideas forward. Was Ludo involved in the Wynyard Quarter?

  3. This is sad news! I’ve been fearing for our City for a while now when it comes to Transport and Urban Planning and this only furthers it. Feels like NIMBYism is hitting its peak in fear of the younger generation who are slowly starting to find their voice.

  4. Sad, but not surprised, to see these two go. I met with John on a few occasions, and he seemed to be increasingly weary of the constant battle to achieve even small wins.

    I love the changes that the ADO has made to Auckland, but Ludo’s decision to leave is completely understandable given the vitriol he’s been receiving lately, and the possibility that his job may soon become completely untenable should Tamihere win mayoral race.

  5. Sad to see indeed. But all the best Ludo.

    AT, AC Senior Management (SLT, Directors and Board Members etc) are all totally scared of the Nimby’s, and, the WASPs that dominate the political landscape not only in our city but worldwide.

    AT and AC are so preoccupied with bad press that they consult on removing a f#cking car park.
    ATAP is agreed. You have a mandate. Get on and deliver it. Stop listening to the 1% who have 99% of the voice!

    We need the youth to mobilize and realise that their vote is just as valuable as Councillor ‘John’* who is best mates with everyone on the local business association and has a phobia of removing parking outside the shops on Remuera Road.

    *Fictional Councillor

    Fun Fact: There are more councillors named John than there are councillors born after 1980.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/114930238/the-white-male-middleaged-face-of-local-government

    This overly represented group wants to Make Auckland Great Again (and i’m not talking in a go back to 1951 kind of way) or in the very least not let it change. The attacks come through overly

    Plugging into the personne du jour

  6. Sad to see indeed. But all the best Ludo.

    AT, AC Senior Management (SLT, Directors and Board Members etc) are all totally scared of the Nimby’s, and, the WASPs that dominate the political landscape not only in our city but worldwide.

    AT and AC are so preoccupied with bad press that they consult on removing a f#cking car park.
    ATAP is agreed. You have a mandate. Get on and deliver it. Stop listening to the 1% who have 99% of the voice!

    We need the youth to mobilize and realise that their vote is just as valuable as Councillor ‘John’* who is best mates with everyone on the local business association and has a phobia of removing parking outside the shops on Remuera Road.

    *Fictional Councillor

    Fun Fact: There are more councillors named John than there are councillors born after 1980.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/114930238/the-white-male-middleaged-face-of-local-government

    This overly represented group wants to Make Auckland Great Again (and i’m not talking in a go back to 1951 kind of way) or in the very least not let it change.

        1. It would be great if one could remove their double entry.
          Glad to see light-hearted trolling alive and well on GA. 🙂

  7. “attacks by those who oppose all the positive changes to the city”

    Is this actually true however?

    I thought people were more upset about how he was pushing through his agenda with almsot zero consideration of others or democratic process.

    The viral clip of him was where he talked about deliberately working in such a way as to need approval.

  8. Trolled out of a job by NIMBYs and the cynical operators who want a “Kiwi Trump” method of hitching anger to a reactionary political platform.

    I think “Front Bum” Tamihere is a long shot for Mayor but I’m much more worried about the NIMBYs winning a council majority.

    1. So much bias in the local government electoral system, so this could easily happen. Thankfully, Council politics is generally not as partisan as national politics.

      What bugs me is the lack of engagement from C and R. This year they’ve retreated into their shells and aren’t responding to questions. I thought it might just be to me (fair enough) but no, it seems to be a pattern:

      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rMJ5H7NT4qw_S-IdqZmkyoubOL_xq136e9S-3Ff5ePA/edit

      https://aucklandelections.co.nz/scores?ward=Albert-Eden-Puket%C4%81papa&localBoard=Albert-Eden&subdivision=%C5%8Cwairaka

      https://docs.google.com/document/d/1a9QK8BPuCp8WtDEwXECtO9f37-SAluwiq4bHogF8GAo/edit#heading=h.aywwpjivpnr

      At all levels, we need a healthy balance of power between the different parties. So what ugly politics are C and R playing? This article is also good about candidates’ positions on climate action:

      https://thespinoff.co.nz/local-elections/21-09-2019/these-are-the-climate-deniers-fudgers-and-prevaricators-running-in-our-local-elections/

      1. Heidi, these lists are only useful to a point, with experienced politicians knowing exactly what they should say. When you drill down to their policies you realise that the reality might be quite different.
        For example, Councillor candidates Gillon and Grant want a second road harbour crossing, future proofed for rail, whatever that might mean. And more park and ride – how much will that cost on the inner shore? For some reason Bike Auckland rate Gillon only a B-. Buyer beware!

  9. It is a sad news.
    The City center master plan is a great legacy and we can see the transformation it make.

    He knows what he is doing and always has great results.

  10. “The council should combine all of the individual design teams from the council as well as all the CCOs into a single group that is then used by all council organisations so there’s not a case of different design teams ‘fighting’ each other.”
    A planning and design office under direct council control is an idea worth exploring. Would it need legislation change to create or can the council do it itself? Who would you need to lobby to achieve such a change. Would need a bit of political power to achieve such a change as there would be strong resistance from the CCO,s.

    1. A lot of people view him poorly.
      That’s all I’ll say of a negative nature.
      On the positive… he helped drive (along with others) one or two good things in the CBD over his many years at the helm.

  11. I had never heard of him until two weeks ago when a Facebook video was circulating showing him explaining that he believes “experts” should be allowed to plan and implement transport and urban design projects free from public consultation. Every single comment on the video thread was negative against him, with many calls for his resignation. He was labelled a threat to democracy. It would seem he has heard their call.

    Now he’s a champion?

    I guess the question is this: Does Greater Auckland believe that the people of Auckland should determine their future, or should they just accept what “experts” tell them they will have?

    1. His title when he was first employed was Auckland Design Champion.
      Yes he has come under attack soon a lot of people, mostly those that oppose change and hate the council.
      And no, there shouldn’t be too be a consult on every minor change, especially when it aligns with the broader, publicly consulted on plans

    2. “He was labelled a threat to democracy.”

      Geoff, we don’t have much of a democracy in Auckland. I know you’re in Taumarunui and you’re not seeing what’s going on here, but the people most at risk – the young, facing huge infrastructure maintenance bills and climate change, as well as an unsafe and unhealthy transport network – don’t get a vote. The people least at risk get several votes (eg my last landlady ringing me up to get a recommendation of who to vote for, since they get a vote in our electorate with their rental property.)

      We have first past the post, not proportional representation. We have political platforms knowingly choosing candidates to appeal to older voters. We have residents nearly 21 before they’re allowed a say in how their city is run who are watching elderly voters choosing not to become informed about the existential threats faced by young people. That’s not democracy.

      I’ll blog about the lack of democracy in our consultation processes at some stage, but for now I’ll just say that there have been far better examples of an appropriate level of consultation for projects in Tauranga, Nelson, Palmerston North and elsewhere in NZ. Auckland Transport’s consultation practices are patchy, sometimes scraping the barrel in terms of how the feedback is used.

      Ludo wasn’t a threat to democracy. He was a threat to the status quo. He was a champion for a better future. Given the multiple crises we face, it is his opponents who are resisting this change for good who are the real threat.

      1. Threat to the status quo? Not really, he actually supported it in many respects. Talked of making Queen Street a strip of luxury boutiques, making it ‘world class’. The work around Central Auckland should partly be seen in that context.
        It’s been a very bourgeois vision of urban design, bereft of true social conscience. Sorry, an awful lot of style over substance in my view.

  12. Good design is so important to the future of any major City. Congratulations to Ludo and team for the work to date – completely agree that we need to see highly skilled successors in place to follow through. 12+ years is a good period of time to make a real difference and Auckland has some great spaces with super design aspects – sometimes the lessons are not always applied to new works, such a pity when the teams have shown what they are capable of.

  13. Heidi, these lists are only useful to a point, with experienced politicians knowing exactly what they should say. When you drill down to their policies you realise that the reality might be quite different.
    For example, Councillor candidates Gillon and Grant want a second road harbour crossing, future proofed for rail, whatever that might mean. And more park and ride – how much will that cost on the inner shore? For some reason Bike Auckland rate Gillon only a B-. Buyer beware!

  14. Good piece, Matt, and strong follow up thoughts, Heidi.

    We should have champions at Auckland Council.

    But if the generally-inept and overwhelmingly wimpy elected members and senior leadership don’t actually want positive change, Auckland Council shouldn’t re-hire these positions and put people through what must be a humiliating bait-and-switch. “Come and champion sustainability or urban form!” … but “Off with your heads if you dare speak truth (or truth to power)!” Awkward.

    And you can imagine that the actual demise of those two was decided in the dark hallways by “leaders” thinking that they’re clever and powerful but are, sadly, incompetent pricks just trying to protect the status quo (while projecting a fake image of change-making) because they benefit from that quite a bit. From what I’ve seen, everyone is out for themselves and elected leaders and executive management patronisingly and duplicitously say they have staff’s back but never do. I’m sure Ludo and John suffered from that daily.

    Of course, we wouldn’t actually need champions if those who we elect stood for something smarter, long term, sustainable and just. So get out there and get your ballot in ASAP and consider running next time. Auckland bloody needs you.

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