Local Government Magazine

Think-tank unleashes insights for Auckland’s infrastructure future

Auckland Governance

Auckland Council recently invited Local Government Magazine to join a two-day think-tank looking at how the infrastructure that council provides affects liveability for everyone in the city.

Local Government Magazine sat in as people from council, CCOs, other local authorities, universities, consultancies and contracting firms openly shared their ideas. Together they generated a huge number of insights on everything from housing and development; Maori thinking on liveability; resilience and interdependency; smart cities; the social aspects of liveability; and water sensitivity and green infrastructure.

Chief operating officer Dean Kimpton says some of the ideas raised could be implemented immediately. Others would need further investigation by council’s research associates – which include Auckland University’s Centre for Infrastructure Research. And council could sit down with other partners – including private sector partners – to see how they may be able to take ideas on board.

Scoping out some of the big challenges for Auckland at the start of the session, Dean says Auckland’s population could grow by another million people in the next 25 to 30 years. It is already home to people of 180 different ethnicities. And people have increasing expectations around how they want to live.

As global unrest continues Auckland will only become more attractive, especially to returning Kiwis. The city’s natural environment creates much of its attraction. But Auckland has an infrastructure deficit and is constrained in what it can fund.

“We are seeking to balance growth with providing quality urban, social and environmental outcomes for the people of Auckland.”

Feedback from break-out groups included the following comments, suggestions and questions.

These are now being assessed, chunked down into workable bites and plugged back into an action plan for long-term infrastructure thinking at Auckland Council.


  • How to understand more about what customers want, in terms of lifestyle and affordability?
  • There is insufficient understanding of economic drivers and thresholds. How best to align the needs and speeds of developers and infrastructure providers?
  • Do we understand implementation issues and bottlenecks? Resource consenting is often seen as a hurdle, for example. How could we improve the processes?
  • Understanding how to communicate with community and developers: are we good at communicating what our plan is? Do people ‘get’ what we’re trying to achieve?
  • How to achieve quality and affordable outcomes?


  • What is the role of business in building resilience?
  • Who pays for resilience?


  • Liveability for whom? There is increasing concern about the growing levels of inequality in Auckland.
  • There are also concerns around people being pushed out to city fringes as they are unable to afford inner-city housing, and the associated transport and cost implications.
  • There are also concerns about how best to handle the rate of growth of diversity in the city.
  • We need to understand what being a “super-diverse” place means in practical terms when building a city. And how to create a shared vision.
  • Reference was made to a definition by Mai Chen – who chairs the Superdiversity Centre of Law, Policy and Business – that a “superdiverse” society is one with over 100 ethnicities, or where more than 25 percent of the population was born overseas.


  • There needs to be a mandate to drive action in creating a smart city, and permission to be bold and ‘just get on with it’. We need a vision for what being a smart city means for Auckland as well as the role of council in translating that vision into action.
  • Any plan for a smart city must be built around citizens – through capturing their knowledge and their ability to innovate. It must also be built around understanding their needs.
  • ICT infrastructure in Auckland is a big issue and barrier. We don’t have the speeds currently required and are playing catch-up in a globally-competitive environment where we’re competing for talents and skills in this area.
  • There are concerns around the digital divide and social equity.
  • There needs to be investment in the technical aspects of how we make complementary data sources accessible across the city. There are issues around data standards, interoperability and how we use open data.


  • Improve two-way understanding of bi-culturalism with both parties listening, learning and connecting with youth.
  • There needs to be a major shift in engagement with Maori from “have-to” to “want-to”.
  • Maori should be valued in every sense of the word. Sometime in the future, they will be one of the most powerful economic entities in Auckland.
  • Also recognise that for a thousand years Maori spiritual values have effectively been embedded in an Auckland plan. They really get it. They should be educating us, not the other way round.
  • Actions should include: more sharing of Maori stories in the Auckland landscape. Embed Maori design principles in everything we do. Make Maori language more visible through council signage. Empower and encourage a Maori cultural renaissance.


  • How best to value water-sensitive design?
  • How to develop better tools to do that so decision-makers and developers are able to do things better?
  • How to ensure water-sensitive design is not just a tick-box added on to the end of processes?
  • Council needs to take leadership of this issue and have the courage to learn from its mistakes: not just pretend mistakes have not happened.

See a gallery of photos from the think-tank sessions.

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