The first step in making Auckland the world's most liveable city by 2040 has been taken with the centralisation of local government, says Dean Kimpton, New Zealand managing director of global infrastructure firm Aecom.

However, he says talk of Auckland reaching the top of the Economists' Intelligence Unit's list of most liveable cities is "an aspiration, a vision" and must be accompanied by a city leadership prepared to drive change.

"It is not a strategy or an action plan," he says. "It is what we would like to look like, so Auckland is now writing the plan to get us there, but it has also got to be governed and implemented really well."

Kimpton, who has been involved in major projects in Vietnam, Singapore, Samoa and Australia - covering ports, water, transport and healthcare - says though the foundations have been put in place in Auckland, today's politicians need to commit to the plan.


Not only that, their successors - the politicians of the future - will need to follow through if the goal is to be reached.

"In a democracy we have to make sure that we hold our politicians to account," says Kimpton. "As business leaders and as a community, we need clear expectations that the public sector will provide the right stimulus for the private sector to deliver the things that need to be done."

Kimpton says the Super City is allowing greater Auckland to reorganise itself in a way that previous political and administrative councils in the region were "always going to struggle with".

"The challenge for us now, as I see it, is that there are so many things that we could do that it's really a case of deciding on what the most important things are and then focusing on them - because we can't do everything," he says.

"We already know that the gap between the funding plan, versus what we can afford, is too big. We need to focus on what will deliver that material shift so Auckland can become the world's most liveable city."

Aecom, which carried out a study into Auckland's growth via the firm's Global Cities Institute, concluded that becoming the most liveable city on the planet is achievable, but that the transformative decisions need to be made within the next five years.

The report - Auckland, Connected - covered off economic growth, transportation, working together, urban form and liveability, to form an interconnected blueprint for the city's development - a guide for planners, policy makers and architects.

"The things we need to do quickly and smartly are push hard to deliver a high value economy, be well-connected for trade and tourism, we need innovation, more integrated transportation, and to build a knowledge economy," says Kimpton.

"For example, London is building its own version of Silicon Valley and has attracted a senior level executive from Facebook to help them.

"As a country, we will have to move into virtual export services in addition to commodity based exports if we are going to improve our productivity gains and income per person. We have got to have a strong focus on those knowledge industries.

"For example, New Zealand has developed good expertise around hydro and geothermal power generation. A business like ours sells those services throughout the world.

"We sell our intellectual property again, and again, and again. We should continue to do that with dairy, forestry, manufacturing and IT."

Unsurprisingly, Kimpton sees transportation as a big issue that Auckland's decision-makers need to tackle as a matter of priority - in particular, fully integrating public transport and traffic management.

"We have to anchor the transportation and land use, we need more investment in smart technology - intelligent transport systems that manage the roads - so vehicles keep moving.

"Likewise, there are ways to co-ordinate the movement of trains with buses. Better systems can improve what we already have. There is a good case to drive our assets harder and smarter, so the introduction of technology should be a real focus going into the future."

The utopia in Kimpton's mind's eye is a fluid relationship between productivity, liveability and transportation. What he calls a "non-linear" approach to connecting people with work and leisure. Changes such as these will make the city more efficient and improve productivity, he says.

"If you look at New Zealand Inc, over the last 30 to 40 years, productivity has dipped - which means that the income per person has too," says Kimpton.

"Unless we improve productivity then we are not going to be able to focus on what we need as a city or as a nation.

"We know what we need to do, we have line of sight to it, but if we don't do something different then we won't get there."

About Aecom
Aecom is a global provider of professional technical and management support services to the transportation, buildings, energy, mining, water, environmental and government sectors

Aecom's Global Cities Institute is an urban laboratory that addresses the evolving role of cities and regions in realising social, economic and environmental aspirations. It partners with cities to diagnose their most pressing issues.

In Auckland, the company is involved in a number of water, transport, energy and infrastructure projects.