Project Auckland: Mayor knows score

By Fran O'Sullivan

Len Brown is happy the city's assessment has improved since last year, writes Fran O'Sullivan.

Mayor Len Brown believes Auckland is on track to being a more liveavle city. Photo / NZ Herald
Mayor Len Brown believes Auckland is on track to being a more liveavle city. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is flourishing the results of the annual Auckland Scorecard as proof positive the city is on the right track to being an economic powerhouse. "Overall the scorecard has shown a significant move to the better," he says.

Literacy and numeracy levels have increased; more Aucklanders are employed and more people are taking public transport. But there are two glaring issues: youth unemployment and housing affordability.

In fact, the scorecard shows the number of 15-19 year olds unemployed improved by 16.4 per cent. In June 2011, 33 per cent of youths were unemployed. The June 2012 figure was 27.6 per cent which Brown conceded is still "a hell of a number".

Auckland Council is working with the private sector and Government on youth transition schemes, But the mayor does not believe the situation will really improve until there is more economic growth.

Housing affordability is the other major problem as detailed further in the Herald's Project Auckland report. The annual Auckland Scorecard - 19 measures ranging from graffiti eradication to employment and traffic congestion - is produced by the Mayor's Office.

Brown's people have chosen measures to mirror some (but not all) of the various metrics canvassed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Mercer and Monocle magazine in their own rankings of "the world's most liveable cities". The mayor is confident the improvement in the annual scorecard rating shows Auckland is on track to achieving the goal of being "the world's most liveable city".

Brown was elected as the first mayor of the Auckland Super City in October 2010 on a platform of producing three multimillion-dollar transport projects in rapid time - the $2.86 billion Central City Rail Link, a CBD-Auckland Airport rail link and a second harbour crossing.

Central Government has blocked Brown saying the projects are not economic. But he is pressing ahead with funding options.

Notably the mayor's flagship policies do not directly feature in the Auckland Scorecard. But it is obvious that specific measures - like the uptake of public transport which has significantly improved since the Super City emerged - would be boosted if projects like the City Rail Loop were completed.

The major strategic drivers for Auckland's economic growth are canvassed in the recently announced Auckland Economic Development Strategy, This has set a goal for annual average increases of 6 per cent for the regional exports; an average annual GDP increase greater than 5 per cent and average annual productivity growth greater than 2 per cent.

Council strategists say if these ambitious targets are achieved Auckland's economy would improve 20 places in 20 years in current OECD gross domestic product per capita ratings.

Brown concedes the Auckland Scorecard may have to be widened to retain credibility. A tertiary education measure could be added, as could further metrics in transport, business, such as digital infrastructure, and the environment.

"I am open - if people have got some suggestions around how we might broaden out the base of this to deliver an even broader scorecard, I am open to it."

The business sector is not shy in expressing strong views.

Aecom's Dean Kimpton wants a harder push towards a high value economy. He points to London, building its own version of Silicon Valley with the help of a senior-level executive from Facebook.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett wants a much greater mayoral focus on the benefits of faster action to implement the Auckland Regional Economic Strategy. He points to the 5000 jobs that would be created if momentum was kick-started.

EMA's Kim Campbell wants the city's officials to be facilitators of business success, not inhibitors.

He says that projects are being held up by "byzantine, time-consuming processes".

- NZ Herald

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