Viv Beck: Growing pains signal progress

7 comments
Viv Beck from Heart of the City explains why prospect of a downtown stadium and City Rail Link can give Aucklanders a chance to see into the future.
It's a defining time to have a Downtown stadium debate back on the table. Photo / NZPA
It's a defining time to have a Downtown stadium debate back on the table. Photo / NZPA

It's a defining time to have a Downtown stadium debate back on the table. Yes, the numbers will need to stack up. It will need to be multi-use and physically magnificent to justify the use of prime real estate.

There is clearly a way to go before any decisions could be made. But what matters is the opportunity and chance to look past the obvious barriers and envisage the city we want over the next decade.

The debate has come as "March madness" hit the headlines with thousands of people affected by delays getting to and from the city.

This has become an annual phenomenon as holidays are over and students start back at university. The difference this year is that the city centre is starting a major period of construction.

There is nothing new about change in the city and it's just five years since we hosted the Rugby World Cup, which was the catalyst for significant investment and transformation.

It's hard to imagine the city now without the buzz that comes from restaurants spilling out on to public spaces such as Britomart, Federal St and the waterfront. Fortunately change did not stop when the Cup was finally secured.

Queen St is today a thriving golden mile, with a mix of international and local brands and thousands of people walking through it every day. The surrounding streets are constantly evolving, bringing new offerings, each with their own diverse appeal.

Demand outstrips supply for retail space and commercial vacancy rates are the lowest they have been for 20 years. Spending is up 10 per cent on the last 12 months across the city centre and it's become the most vibrant urban experience in New Zealand.

With an action-packed events calendar and a vibrant arts and cultural scene, these days the show never stops. The city also looks different, with beautifully restored heritage buildings, respect for quality design and new laneways connecting once forlorn streets. Auckland city now has a real heart. This is too precious to lose as the city continues to develop.

Auckland city now has a real heart. This is too precious to lose as the city continues to develop.

The level of investment planned is a phenomenal sign of confidence in our city - around $12 billion of private and public sector investment over the next 10 years. And with it comes the physical sign of growth - cranes, and yes, road works.

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have a major responsibility to keep the city moving throughout these changes. If March madness continues through to May, June and July, we must hold them to account.

However, growth of this scale can't be the responsibility of just a few organisations. We all have a role to play.

It's incredibly frustrating to be stuck in traffic and there is no doubt a City Rail Link should have been built many years ago. But at least it's finally happening. And the way we approach the change will make a massive difference to how we come through the next decade.

Early adopters are already changing their habits and finding alternative ways to get to work. Others may be able to change their working hours so they can avoid peak travel times. Another group will relish the chance to stay in the city longer after work, meeting friends and enjoying the diversity of what's on offer.

This might even be the time to drive a change to different opening hours - some businesses are already doing this to meet the tourism demand.

Growth is a good problem to have. The city is booming with more and more people choosing to visit, live and work here. This brings new opportunity and many innovative businesses are offering exciting and different experiences. The best thing we can do is to support them and enjoy what they have to offer as we manoeuvre the growing pains and consider the potential that lies ahead.

We have a unique chance to shape a city that has already attracted international attention. It's not only great for Auckland's economy - it will be great for New Zealand.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

• Viv Beck is chief executive of Heart of the City.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 10 Dec 2016 09:27:26 Processing Time: 747ms