So Britain sent us the most entertaining little band of tourists we've ever hosted on these shores. No, not the Beatles, although they were quite good too.

Brexit on holiday, never a dull moment. And welcome to 2019! The year that's going to be just full of it.

I published a six-part series on ways to "fix Auckland" last week. Some people congratulated me for getting it down to six, but don't worry, I've got 627 more ideas to churn through later. Some people thought six was six too many. Sorry about that.

I looked at the ferries, housing and bike lanes. The most controversial thing I said about any of that was maybe we should turn construction into a sector with lots of women in it. Start with career pathways for girls in school.


Wouldn't work, said one electrician: "Mate ... I don't see many women making it a career choice. We have to get dirty, in ceilings and under houses on a daily basis. There are rules and regulations that must be adhered to as well as the minefield of running a business."

What was I thinking? Sorry girls.

I said our local body politicians should be better, and gave examples of the duplicity and incompetence of some of the existing lot. No, I didn't name names, but yes, those council elections are coming and I will do that.

Want to stand? I had some tips on getting elected to council through a local board, which is less difficult, and more effective when you get there, than you might think. Judith Collins and Local Government NZ both approved, so that about covers it.

I said sure, we're building a "city of the 21st century", as the planners like to say, but many of the best parts of it will come from the 20th and 19th centuries, and from much earlier. Ka mua, ka muri, as the whakataukī says. Walk backwards into the future. And I proposed a brand new museum for the waterfront.

A mega-yacht sails into Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
A mega-yacht sails into Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Oh no, said some, haven't I heard of climate change and rising sea levels? Others thought we should fix the housing and other social problems first. A few chimed in with different museum proposals. There's much to say about all of this and I'll come back to it soon.

There were themes. I said you can't make a better city unless you make it better for everyone in the city. That's everyone in all the demographics: age, ethnicity, gender, the suburb you live in, the type of work you do or want to do, your housing status, your wealth or lack of it. The sports and culture and all the other things you like to be a part of, the transport modes you use to get to work, go shopping, pick up the kids.

It's hard to make things better for everyone. Some people assume change will make everything worse. Others see change as a threat to some privilege they enjoy, and privileged voices are usually heard the most.


The balance of opportunity in Auckland schools tips sharply in favour the so-called "elite" schools, and there's no good reason for that. The boomer generation, on the whole, clings to the benefits of home ownership to the exclusion of the generations that follow. We have to fix that, somehow.

Another theme of that series: we plan ahead now.

Until recently, this wasn't the case, where the operating principle was to wait for demand to become acute before addressing a problem. That's a polite way of saying crisis management.

Crisis management gives you clogged up roads and public transport that quickly gets filled to capacity every time you expand it.

It also prevents you from envisaging a better world. Crisis management would never build SkyPath, the proposed walking and cycling path over the harbour bridge, because there is no crowd of cyclists and walkers waiting at each side in the desperate hope of one day crossing over.

Planning ahead has its own risks, though: what if you build it and nobody comes? That's what critics say has happened with cycle lanes.

It's easy to look at the ones we now have and say they're not needed, or not needed yet. But cycling is the fastest-growing transport mode, because those lanes have created new opportunities. They are changing behaviour and they can't do that unless the lanes are built first.

As it happens, they are also helping to resolve several crises, including roading congestion, poor population health and high greenhouse gas emissions.

There was a third theme to my series last week: be bolder. Committing to the full potential of electric ferries is not the same thing as adding a few extra services to the upper harbour, although that's much needed anyway. Building Tangata Moana, a Museum of the People of the Sea, is a far bigger proposition than sprucing up the Maritime Museum.

The boldest thing of all is to embrace who we are. And who's that?

Right now, we've got those travellers spreading their trash trail down the North Island, and what we've been saying to them is, "Can you pick up your rubbish?" and "How's your holiday going?" We should be very proud of that.

We've also got the prime minister and minister of finance heading to the Davos World Economic Forum to explain their wellbeing budget, due for release this May, to some of the most powerful people in the world. Proud of that too.

And in a couple of weeks we'll celebrate our National Day of Optimism, aka Waitangi Day. Not because everything is rosy in the garden of Godzone. Nobody thinks that. And not because we should just pretend the crises don't exist.

But there is a wide consensus that we don't need, or want, to go to war with ourselves to fix what's wrong. That's a great thing, and it's quickly become a distressingly rare thing too.

So who are we? We are the anti-Brexit.

Intent on better change. In 2019, here in the South Pacific, while quite sizeable parts of the world set themselves alight around us, we've got the chance to work out what that means.


How to let the past shape the future
A dream of fabulous ferries
How to get better housing
How to get better bike lanes
How to get better politicians
A dream of a new museum