Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Auckland - a global city or a backwater?

If we play our cards right, Auckland will become a destination city. Photo / Nick Reed
If we play our cards right, Auckland will become a destination city. Photo / Nick Reed

Imagine Auckland 20 years from now.

If we play our cards right, we'll be living in what Lonely Planet will describe as a destination city.

Our home town will be one of those places people go to for a weekend getaway for the food, the nightlife and the interesting graffiti down hidden alleys.

The coolest Melburnians will brag about the new cafes they discovered in Ponsonby, just to show how cosmopolitan they really are. Broadway musicals will add Auckland to their tours. "I heart AK" T-shirts and Blues Rugby caps will become fashion items.

Even if our wedding anniversaries fall inconveniently on Mondays we'll still have a choice of fancy - and, importantly, open - restaurants in which to celebrate the occasion. Kitchens will still cook meals after 9pm. Live jazz won't just be a Wednesday night thing.

I'd bet my house that is what we want Auckland to become (not literally, because my house is in Auckland so I'm sitting on a goldmine), but if that's the city we want, we're going to have to embrace the changes that are coming.

Auckland's house prices will never come down. It will never again be a city where you can expect English fluency. If we want Auckland to be a significant global city, it will attract immigrants and they will drive up the prices of the houses we live in.

Think of any of the big cities in the world. New York, London, Paris. None of them are cheap to live in.

If you have friends in those cities, you will have had the experience of walking into their apartments and feeling surprise at how humble their accommodation is given what they earn.

Even if the local authorities in those cities built thousands of new houses and apartments, the citizens of the world would snap them up as fast as they were built and prices would stay high.

Simply, people want to live in those cities and they will pay what it takes to get there.

Which is why you hear a different language spoken on every street block. From around the world, they fly in with their initiative and talent and different culture.

When we complain about housing unaffordability, we're focused on completely the wrong thing.

The problem isn't house prices, it's everything else.

It's the lack of public transport to get us into the city quickly from the parts of town where we can afford to buy. It's the low wages workers are paid that make it difficult to match foreigners who outbid us on that house we've just fallen in love with. It's our obsession with having a patch of grass out the back - even if we drive two hours every day to have it - instead of living in an apartment 10 minutes' walk from work.

If we want Auckland to become a global city - and yes, we do - then we should mimic those global cities.

We've just elected our new mayor and new councillors. Let's press them for more cycle paths. Let's pressure them to put rail out to the airport and give us more buses on more routes. Let's ask them to encourage new apartment blocks.

Let's press the Government to pay its teachers and police officers more so they can afford to live in Auckland. Let's consider paying living wages instead of minimum wages.

As much as I love watching the price of my house climb, it is depressing to know your house earns more in a year than you do.

And let's welcome the immigrants that bring fresh ideas into this city.

I heart AK's future.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something trying very hard to avoid growing up. So far it’s working, except for the husband, the mortgage and the proper job. She lives between Auckland and Wellington. When she’s not writing for the Herald on Sunday, she co-hosts TV3’s 7pm current affairs programme Story.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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