Draft Auckland Plan: An icy blast from the past more than a warm pacific future?

Draft Auckland Plan is just out. It’s a vision for the city going out to 2040. Oh dear. Now, I’ll caveat this comment by saying that I’ve not had a chance to read it in detail but I have skimmed through it to try and get a general feeling about where it’s going. Why? Well, Auckland is my home. I might live in London but I care deeply about my city. I’m concerned with how it’s being governed, how it grows and develops. Reading the Auckland Plan I’m left with the distinct feeling that Auckland does not want to be a world-class city. Or perhaps more to the point, it doesn’t really believe that it can be. Which is a shame. The Plan might talk about it but deep down it doesn’t want to be an entrepreneurial oasis and has given up on the idea of lifting the economic quality of life for many of its residents. Not that the plan says that, it says the opposite, but it doesn’t feel like the council really believes it. There’s too much looking backwards, where we’ve come from. Not enough looking forwards, where we’re going to. The most telling point for me in the whole document is in paragraph 87 and the related table. Auckland has dropped well off the mark. Look at our neighbours, Santiago, Sydney and Melbourne. They’ve powered ahead. Auckland has dropped massively off the pace even relative to other recession-hit cities. The weak apology that at least Dublin’s done worse holds little comfort for me. Of course it has, for a couple of very obvious reasons, Dublin is a basket case. Do you really want to compare youself to that? So where does the plan go wrong? In places, it feels like it could have been written twenty years ago, to be honest. It’s not visionary, hardly radical and is weak in a number of areas that frankly need to be a lot, lot stronger. It’s weak on education, its weak on the relationship between education and industry, it’s weak on the relationship between education and quality of life. The word ‘democracy’ is missing completely. Doesn’t strong democratic renewal play a key part in a vibrant world-class city? Obviously not. And it’s woeful on technology, I was massively proud of the good work done in Waitakere to build knowledge-based businesses but it seems in the new Auckland these are minor players. That’s stupid. And wrong. We’re still focussing on shifting people from work to home, not looking at how they could work from home or local community-based hubs. The plan adopts an ill thought through position that broadband is a commercial issue to be left to the markets. Given how much paper is devoted to the public sector role on other infrastructure items like roads, airports and marine – again, this is just wrong. The focus is too much on old-world businesses where New Zealand is always going to struggle to compete. But high value, knowledge businesses need highly skilled, knowledge based workers. Where’s the link in the strategy? The world is social, the Auckland Plan is compartmentalised. Again, its old world thinking. Does this convince me that I’d move my business, my base, back to Auckland? No. And that’s a worry given what I do. This isn’t the blueprint for the smart city that I’d like to see.  ]]>

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