It's an evocative title, suggesting New ' />

Mayor Len Brown has hit on the slogan "Auckland Unleashed" to brand the Super City's first spatial plan.

It's an evocative title, suggesting New Zealand's premier city can ramp itself up into a thriving metropolis if the council's strategic plan results in the latent energy of Auckland's citizenry being channelled more productively than in the past through better infrastructure, good social and economic planning and the like.

Or some sort of King Kong bursting out of its constraints.

Personally, I prefer "pressure makes a diamond" - a slogan which would indicate that the Auckland Council is really prepared to tackle real world pressures (such as disciplined finances) and focus on what really matters to get good outcomes, not adhere to ideologies that are a recipe for bankruptcy in tight financial times.

For the great and the good - politicians, business people, social and community players - who will converge at the Aotea Centre today to take part in a one-day summit under the guidance of international experts, including cities proponent Greg Clark, it is a chance to get some much-needed focus on where Auckland is going.

Since the Auckland Council came into being on November 1 last year, much of the public focus has been on issues which could and should have been avoided: Brown's 100 Projects in 100 Days Plan (an election campaign brainwave he would have been better to bury before going public); the controversy over the Maori Advisory Committee (another layer of Government threatening to slow the process of change to a crawl) and the lack of discipline around rising rates.

These are not factors which are likely to feature in Brown's own "key performance indicator scorecard", which was one of the main planks of his electioneering business and economic development policy.

But his annual "State of Auckland" speech will not have a great deal of credibility if his council does not get a stronger grip on its finances.

This is doubly important because central Government - as Prime Minister John Key will no doubt point out - does not have a bottomless pit to back Auckland's growth.

The two Canterbury earthquakes have eroded the Government's ability to pony-up for Brown's pet rail projects.

But Key's Government will not turn the spending tap off for road projects that are already planned or the rail electrification.

Central Government knows that Auckland matters. Particularly as it will have to carry considerable responsibility for New Zealand's overall growth while Christchurch is in the doldrums.

Brown certainly won a convincing electoral mandate to push through an ambitious agenda for Auckland.

But central Government is not in the position to play the major enabling role in Auckland's success that Brown had hoped when he won the mayoral crown.

There have been plenty of proposals floated for Auckland to be a distinctive Pacific hub.

But with the country's finances under pressure, the scope to dock the Government's macro-economic moves with the new local government arrangements is lessened.

The Government has already given Auckland a nudge to consider the "mixed ownership" model that it plans to deploy with its own infrastructure investments - including the prospective partial sell-down of energy SOEs.

Right now, only ideology stands in the way of the Auckland Council instructing its investment company (a council-controlled organisation) from freeing up equity to invest in new infrastructure assets.

The investment CCO's assets are worth nearly $1.2 billion. Its largest assets are its stake in Auckland International Airport and its 100 per cent holding of Ports of Auckland.

Given that the dividend stream is projected to be a mere $25 million this year (a 2.8 per cent dividend yield) it is obvious that funds could be better deployed.

If today's summit is to prove a success, Brown needs to lift his own level of ambition. Is it really any point being the world's "most liveable city" if Auckland (and New Zealand) continues to slump in economic terms vis a vis Australia? Let's face it, Auckland is already number four on the Mercer list.

Importantly, what is happening on the economic development front in Auckland?

How will we attract companies here? Can Auckland offer some useful carrots to get more companies to relocate their operations in areas like the new waterfront development? How will Auckland tap the international visitors who come to town for the Rugby World Cup? Where will Brown go for infrastructure funds?

How will the council involve the private sector?

These are the kind of nuts and bolts issues that will be top for business.

There is more: How will business clusters like the creative industries, the technology sector, medicine and higher education be fostered? Can we build true centres of excellence? Maybe persuade Australia to put a new transtasman facility here to help recompense New Zealand for the loss of its own future taxpayers to a bigger neighbour?

Can Auckland offer the right regulatory and entrepreneurial regime to ensure companies want to stay here?

These sorts of questions will concentrate minds.

Importantly, stakeholders will want some demonstration that the new council is totally behind the spatial plan.

If Brown can pull the major stakeholders together today - and, importantly, demonstrate he is prepared to take on board feedback - it will be another step forward in Auckland's success.