Study: Great things ahead, if Auckland can get its act together

Aucklanders can look forward to an integrated transport system, a third harbour crossing, and improved health and education services by 2040 if the city gets focused, takes action and builds investor confidence, according to a new study issued in response to the Auckland Plan by the Aecom Global Cities Institute.

Joe Brown and Dean Kimpton

Joe Brown and Dean Kimpton

In its book Auckland, Connected, the institute identifies affordability as a key challenge and recommends that Auckland Council be ruthless in its prioritisation of projects that will drive transformational change.

The institute partners with cities to diagnose their most pressing issues and develop solutions to urban challenges, including Beijing and Phoenix, drawing on Aecom's planning, design, engineering and management capabilities. It worked alongside Auckland Council, the New Zealand Institute and the University of Auckland.

Aecom is also said to be bidding for the contract to help prepare the blueprint for central Christchurch.

Key recommendations include co-locating the city’s universities, CRIs and private sector research and development facilities, for example, at a a ‘Grafton Research Quarter’, to attract investment and top students. Creating clustering and agglomerating industries (food, health, education, ICT and marine sectors) through real and virtual connections locally and globally is also floated. If successful, that could lead to international companies relocating to Auckland because of the depth of research available and the city emerging as a leader in food production, medical technology, engineering and science.

The institute states that Auckland lacks a realistic funding model to address public transport. "Realistic" road pricing, which could include user charges and tolling, fuel taxes, city development funding, parking/ congestion charges and levies, tax increment funding and private public partnerships – are cited as options to address this.

It also calls for investment in the city rail link – leading to an integrated system with feeder buses for "door-to-door" transit, and ferry services with fast connections around the harbour.

The book – a  response to the Auckland Plan – draws comparisons between Auckland and other highly ranked liveable cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, and Helsinki) and provides insights from international approaches and how these could be applied locally. For example, it examines transport approaches in Singapore’s Land Transport Authority Land Transport System and the CycleCity initiative in Sydney.

Aecom New Zealand managing director, Dean Kimpton, said Auckland is at a crossroads.

“By 2040, it will be a very different city. Auckland is set to grow from a population of 1.5 million to an estimated 2.4 million. This substantial increase will have a major impact on transport, housing and other infrastructure.

“The investment required to make Auckland the most liveable city is more than council can deliver alone – Auckland needs to be public sector stimulated, but private sector-driven."

Head of the Global Cities Institute and Aecom chief innovation officer Joe Brown said it would be a mistake to consider each of Auckland's problems in isolation.

"Transport for example, needs a designer’s eye. The economy benefits from a guiding social mission. Buildings are just as important as the spaces between them. A beautiful waterfront needs an economic engine to be successful."