Mayor Len Brown is hosting a one-day "summit" of "the best minds from Auckland and New Zealand" in 10 days "to start the discussion about Auckland's future".

The talkfest is to launch the development of the Auckland spatial plan which, says the mayor, will help achieve his vision of Auckland "as the world's most liveable city".

But in declaring "this is where it starts" Mr Brown is ignoring the dark shadow of the Government which, a week ago, issued a series of Cabinet papers declaring what it wants in the spatial plan.

Auckland's future, as outlined in the papers issued by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, is a rather different vision to that envisaged by the mayor.

He talks of a future that integrates social and economic prosperity with the recreational and cultural wellbeing of Aucklanders. The Government's emphasis seems to be on economic prosperity alone. It also wants to muscle into the planning of the region in a way not seen before.

Noting how urban form has a significant influence on achieving government objectives in the areas of housing affordability and choice, transport, economic development and environmental outcomes, the report writers say the creation of the spatial plan is a good time for the Government to abandon its usual backseat role.

"Until now, the Government has played a relatively passive role in Auckland's urban planning," they say. "This has left Government in the position of reacting to the policy decisions of local government ... rather than adopting a more proactive approach towards achieving its objectives."

The advent of the Super City, it says, is "an opportunity to change this approach and to positively engage with Auckland Council on urban form issues".

What the report is proposing though, will not come as "positive" in the eyes of many Aucklanders.

What is being proposed as a new start reads very much like old policies Aucklanders have tried and rejected.

The authors criticise the existing regional growth strategy, and in particular the metropolitan urban limits and other planning regulations, suggesting they weren't working because, among other things, developers and property owners didn't like being constrained. Which, one would have thought, was a sign the rules were working.

What is proposed is "a more realistic approach to regulation (zoning and district plan rules) ... that would encourage appropriate development rather than tell people where to locate".

They want new housing developments outside the existing metropolitan urban limits - which would presumably go.

They believe the way to encourage inner city renewal is to "incentivise higher density development" by "reviewing" development contributions policies. Which is shorthand, presumably, for dropping charges the council levies to pay for the community infrastructure costs involved in new developments.

The business-centric emphasis is at its most obvious in the Transport Trends document which opens with the bare admission that "the Government's top priority for transport is to maximise the sector's contribution to economic growth and productivity". It wants more roads, and more capacity on existing roads. And when trucks are being held up, the rest of us should get out of the way.

"The performance of the motorway and arterial network is critical to effective freight distribution. Freight movements should have priority in key freight corridors."

Without denying the importance of economic growth, a transport system designed to put trucks first is hardly the stuff of Mayor Brown's "world's most liveable city" dream.

The paper also calls for a "realistic" approach to transport investment.

It concludes, no surprises here, that cars will continue to be king. But more fundamentally, it gives a quick survey of the decline of public passenger transport over the past 50 years - not mentioning that was the result of a deliberate government policy to pander to the public love of cars. It then predicts, based on this record, that this pattern won't change, so we'd better keep building roads.

It's right that the Government has an input into the creation of what in effect will be the guide book to the city's long-term development.

But it's equally right that Aucklanders should have the final say. It's we who know, for example, whether a city that gives priority rights to trucks, and is let free to ooze unchecked across farmland to Whangarei and Huntly, is a liveable one.