Auckland's still-evolving 2018 Agenda will be shaped by two, not necessarily aligned, agendas.

First, mayor Phil Goff's 10-year Long-Term Plan (LTP) proposal — which Aucklanders will get a chance to comment on early next year — unveils a vision that acknowledges the city needs a higher-performing Auckland Council.

He wants Auckland to be "a world-class city, a great place to live and New Zealand's globally competitive city that attracts and retains talented and skilled people".

There is no agenda for achieving the vision in the long-term plan — that agenda may be in a refreshed, over-arching 30-year Auckland Plan soon to be publicised — and where some clarity and joining of the dots is needed with the Auckland Unitary, transport and other plans guiding Auckland's intensified urban growth development.


To see what a world-class city aspiration looks like, we need only look across the Tasman at what Auckland's sister city Brisbane has achieved — with the help of a single-minded, financially astute Brisbane City Council.

Since the Global Financial Crisis ended in 2008, Brisbane has planned itself around an international model of economic development, pursuing a wide range of joint ventures, sponsored business conventions and sporting events, and convinced its state government to prioritise Brisbane for road and rail infrastructure funding.

It has also experimented with public-private partnerships including rapid rail and toll roads, with some success.

Using a whole-of-government leadership approach linking strategic, tactical, technical and operational partnerships with central government equivalents, business, trade unions, universities and community groups, numerous cities — especially in Europe — are undertaking governance reform to improve performance.

For many such cities their core services cover water, immigration, economy, land use, waste, housing, transport, education and policing.

Watch this space for some of this agenda and approach to move centre stage in Project Auckland 2018.

Goff has raised the possibility of fine-tuning Council's operational structure, by reducing the number of Council-Controlled Organisations CCOs, disestablishing council-controlled Auckland Council Investments and indicating a need for continual improvement from other CCOs.

Action in this area of the council's organisational maze is long overdue. In setting up a single council, seven disconnected councils were replaced with a tier of CCOs who operate at arm's length from council. But the popular view is we are no further ahead.


Another feature of the LTP debate will be what is done to reduce the festering tension among Auckland's 21 local boards.

Reflected in attempts by Rodney and Waiheke to break away from Auckland Council, there is a litany of complaints of not enough budget, little real influence and high overhead cost structures with few tangible benefits.

Each local board has been asked to put forward just one initiative they consider to be the priority in their area for the next 10 years.

Governing councillors also need to rethink their role. Just about every speech begins with a reference to the ward that elected them. But the oath they swore is to serve the Auckland region as a whole.

The heart of the LTP debate will be on funding and what can be done within available constraints.

Goff's big play has been to propose a 10c/litre regional fuel tax to accelerate investment in Auckland's transport network — 11.5c/litre when GST is added. This will obviously help Auckland's catch-up agenda to have a transport system that can cope with population growth, but it clearly won't be enough.

Auckland will need a big injection of investment capital if it is to have any hope of getting in front of its interlinked housing, social and environmental problems.

The regional fuel tax will likely only be accepted if Aucklanders can see an improved transport system on the scale the Waterview tunnels have delivered. But that won't happen without the next tier of scaled-up transport investments — the region-wide mass transit system and the third harbour crossing the new Government is promising.

That brings up the second defining force behind Auckland's 2018 governance reform agenda: How will the new Government decide to play its hand?

Our "breath of fresh air" next-generation Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and a tier of new Ministers (Grant Robertson, Phil Twyford, David Parker, David Clark, Andrew Little) want to be a Government of Change — to fix Auckland in a big way.

Labour's DNA in promoting Auckland's governance reform 10 years ago, coupled with the passion of Auckland-based NZ First and Green members of Government, indicates a deep desire to do what it takes to help Auckland lift its game.

The new Government's critical Auckland influence is already obvious in sorting out America's Cup defence arrangements. Coming days and weeks will see a widened, deepened shared action agenda agreed.

The previous Government was "hands off" for far too long, and paid the cost.

Auckland is 40 per cent of the New Zealand economy. Having a Government that can front foot the city's transport, housing and urban planning crises, ensure businesses can address chronic skill shortages and start to address social, educational and health gaps will be as crucial to its own future as to that of Auckland.

The analogy is of a twin-hulled Council-Government canoe. Unless both groups paddle together the canoe goes nowhere.

Predicting the future is a risky business, but evidence suggests Auckland is too important to central Government and the rest of New Zealand to be allowed to fail.