As we enter an age when humanity’s impacts become dominant in shaping our world, cities provide the biggest opportunity to enhance people’s lives – and the biggest challenge. Cities are the canvas on which much of our collective futures will be drawn.

How cities are planned, designed, serviced, governed and financed is material to our happiness and prosperity.

2018 WSP Global Cities Index – A Tale of Our Cities is a different index as it provides insights about how cities are preparing for a future shaped by fundamental changes in climate and societal technology forces.

Auckland was ranked 13th in the Index of 24 global cities, bolstered by a major planning overhaul for growth and renewed public investment in metro rail infrastructure. This has set our largest city well on the path to a stronger global position.

To read the full report visit wsp-opus.co.nz/futurecities but if you’re short on time, here’s the top five things we learnt from the WSP Global Cities Index.

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1. Vision and leadership counts

The foundations of today’s most competitive cities were laid in decades past by visionaries able to see beyond their immediate horizons.

What this suggests is that visionary planning can prepare a city for success, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and change.

Cities such as Copenhagen – ranked #2 – are reaping the rewards of plans that were put in place after the second world war. The palm of a hand represented central Copenhagen and the five fingers were the areas of growth, including an emphasis on green space across the metropolis consisting of recreational facilities, forests, grassland and agricultural land.

Auckland has shown real strength in its future planning, providing a yardstick by which it can measure its progress. With vision and leadership, Auckland has the opportunity to become a global leading city. The time to act is now.

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2. Australasian cities perform well, but…

Auckland and its Australian cousins Melbourne (#14), Sydney (#15), and Brisbane (#21), sit mid-table and share many characteristics. They too face the material challenges of housing affordability, quality and supply but on a much larger scale. Where Auckland is grappling with managing a population growth from 1.5 million to 3 million by 2050, Australian cities face population growth from 4.5 million to 10 million. Like Auckland, Australian cities have had historic investment in urban sprawl and underinvestment in transport including future mobility. It is an area where Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) has historically been reluctant to move decisively with planning, investment and regulation. Strategic planning for freight and logistics are an opportunity for global competitiveness.

ANZ cities are extraordinary, but to remain competitive and future-focused it’s important not to be complacent.

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3. Transport – the mindset challenge

Cities that are highly liveable emphasise walkability and tend to have extensive, affordable and high quality public transport that connects people to jobs, schools and amenities in an efficient and reliable way.

Auckland’s rapid growth and historic underinvestment in public transport has created a culture of car dependency, resulting in significant traffic congestion. This has made it more difficult for people to reach employment, education, healthcare, shopping, recreation and other activities.

That said, Auckland has recently been bolstered by a major planning overhaul for growth and renewed public investment in metro rail infrastructure, setting it well on the path to a stronger global position. However future success in this area will require commuters to forgo their love affair with private vehicles and turn to public transport. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) is a game-changer for Auckland commuters and the first step in easing congestion and allowing Auckland to move freely.

Auckland needs a multi nodal transport system that provides genuine choice for people, enables access to opportunities, achieves safety, health and environmental outcomes, and underpins economic development.

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4. Housing – managing our girth

Providing affordable housing is a challenge faced by many of global cities regardless of whether they’re well established or emerging.
For example, housing is a priority in Manchester and the city has a 15-year strategy to build 227,000 new homes in the city, 20% of
them “affordable”.

In 2013 Singapore set an objective to build 700,000 affordable homes by 2030, to meet projected population growth. Commendably, 200,000 of those homes have already been delivered. Globally, around 3 million are moving to cities each week. This mass human migration is putting pressure on housing stock, with demand outstripping supply. So, we’re going to need clever solutions and different thinking to address this.

In Auckland we have an opportunity to embrace a more compact city. Over the last seven years the focus has been on greenfield developments on the fringes, but this trend is changing in favour of brownfield developments. Auckland Council has noted that 85% of new housing has been in brownfield development, particularly in terraced housing and apartments. Crucial to success in this area will be to focus less on creating iconic buildings and more on creating extraordinary places that connect citizens to their communities.

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5. Climate change – we’re on the right track

Auckland has been proactive and highly transparent about planning for climate change, commissioning climate change projects and impacts research to support resilient and sustainable decision-making. Some of the key threats facing the region include a 30cm sea level rise by 2050, increased temperature and increased extremes in rainfall intensity, erosion and slip instability.

As a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Auckland is committed to a 40% emissions reductions by 2040 (from 1990 levels) and Auckland’s Low Carbon Strategic Action Plan lays out the pathway to achieve this.

The vast majority of Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions are from stationary energy generation and transport. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project is tackling transport emissions by improving cycling and encouraging the proliferation of electric vehicles. This includes a commitment to using only electric buses by 2025 and a zero-emission city centre by 2030.

Auckland is a regional leader in climate change planning and is embracing innovative approaches. However, considerable transformation of mobility systems and built form is required to meet the expected challenges in the next 30 years.


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David Kidd
General Manager Client Solutions

“WSP Opus brings clarity and vision to complex challenges. We see the future more clearly through key trends in climate change, society, technology and resources, working with our clients to advise on solutions that are ready for today and for the future.”