When I told my kids I'd been asked to provide my opinions on revitalising Auckland, they clamoured to offer suggestions, headlined by a giant slide down Queen Street with off-chutes funnelling users onto bouncy castles, into foam pits and toward enclosures of fluffy kittens.
We could do worse.
At the moment there is a real disconnect between Auckland Council and its constituents; between public and private concerns; between the city and its satellite suburbs; between shopowners and ram-raiders…the list goes on.
I'm running for mayor on a platform of uniting communities and being pro-business, environmentally friendly, and future-focused. In essence, ditching political affiliations for commonsense decision-making and doing what's right for our city, not just what's expedient.
That's why the foundations for revitalisation need to be sound. It's not just about great ideas, but the framework for delivering them.
I advocate a four-step process, starting with communication and collaboration. We need buy-in from all stakeholders, with a genuine desire to listen, appreciate each others' perspectives and reach a consensus on the best course of action. The talented Auckland Council planners need to strengthen relationships with iwi, private sector experts, Council-Controlled Organisations, local boards, central government, education professionals and the public to prioritise key initiatives.
The next step is compelling creativity. Don't do vanilla. Don't be bland. Be bold. Let's get back to the "can-do" Kiwi attitude. Embrace innovation, utilise technology, become a test market and set ourselves up for the future.
Auckland needs to be financially prudent and fiscally clever. And we can't put off infrastructure projects that will only become more expensive over time. So, step three is to adopt a feasible funding model. Public-private partnerships are the way of the future. We need to identify partners with financial clout that share Auckland's vision and see the value in investing for the long term. Let's work with central government to provide tax incentives and implement rates relief for projects that benefit the community.
The final step is execution excellence. We need to cut through bureaucratic red tape and resource consent constraints. We have to remove barriers to success, providing the private sector, local iwi, and all Aucklanders with the confidence we can continue growing in a fair and progressive way.
Underpinning these steps is a quartet of inherent understandings. We must value our beautiful environment and always strive to be clean and green; rejoice in and embrace our unique ethnic and cultural make-up; provide a safe environment to work and play; and work as hard for future generations as we do our own.
Having set this framework, let's talk vision. I'm committed to leading a council that brings Auckland to life and ensures our city is the envy of the world.
We have a Covid-hit economy to rebuild. We have disenfranchised communities to bring together. By engaging and understanding Aucklanders - every pocket, every community, every issue - we can develop and forge strategies that deliver a world-class city with united communities and empowered people.
Let's start with identity. Is Tāmaki Makaurau the City of Sails? Multicultural capital of the world? Isthmus of opportunity? Gateway to Aotearoa? Or all of the above? I'm keen to survey Aucklanders to understand their thoughts and receive suggestions.
A public submission process could also determine how the public wants to revitalise their city.
From a personal perspective, I'd like each quadrant of the Super City - north, east, west, and south - to focus on its strengths and be unique chambers of a beating heart. Our 21 local boards have a big part to play. I currently chair the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board and know first-hand our gifted board members are fully capable of defining priorities for rejuvenating their constituencies.
Read the other candidates' views:
• Craig Lord: We have changed and Auckland needs to change as well
• Michael Morris: A revitalised Auckland for all inhabitants, great and small
• Leo Molloy: Auckland got lost because it didn't know where it was going
• Wayne Brown: Fixing up downtown means finishing what we've started
• Viv Beck: Let's back ourselves to make things happen
• Efeso Collins: Bringing hope back will revitalise Auckland
• John Lehmann: Let's reconnect Auckland Council, the ratepayers, and the public
• Ted Johnston: A competent and effective council with a wise leader
While the local boards can be pivotal in addressing "local" renewal, we all have a part to play in returning the CBD to its former glory.
The council has certainly enhanced waterfront areas and the City Rail Link, while debilitating for local businesses during the building process, will be a game-changer for opening up the central city.
An awesome Auckland needs world-class transport and amenities, including fit-for-purpose parks, stadia, and community areas. It also needs to bring communities together in a variety of events to celebrate our city's interests and diversity.
Let's green-up and create distinct precincts for food, arts, cultural appreciation, sport, and leisure pursuits. We can encourage pop-up stores for the myriad of empty shops, including a pop-up cop shop to coordinate a CBD safety programme to ensure downtowners are kept safe. That includes more CCTV cameras and police on the beat.
We also need housing solutions for the homeless, and to remove insipid concrete planters from Queen St and create space for rostered-on food trucks and el fresco dining or make room for fun downtown drawcards like that giant slide my kids want.
We don't need to have kittens.
• Mayoral candidate Gary Brown is a father of five currently chairing the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board. An active North Harbour referee for more than 30 years and currently President of the North Harbour Referees Association. Brown is also an event promoter and entertainer - one of the world's few authorised Austin Powers impersonators.