The Unleashing Auckland session on 16 July entailed three lively presentations followed by an even more lively discussion with the audience of well over a 100. A recording of the session is available here.

Eaqub'We have stolen from our children, we have stolen from our grandchildren, it is time to put it right' was a core message of Shamubeel Eaqub.

Among the other key factors he identified were the constraints of excessive housing prices and inadequate transport systems as limiting opportunities for Auckland to become an attractive city living up to its potential. The competition is not with other NZ cities, but overseas cities. With an average cost of $800,000 for a house, and an average income of $80,000, too many Aucklanders are forced to rent poor quality houses. House ownership peaked in 1991 and NZ has gone backwards ever since.  Successive Governments have failed to address the issue of overseas ownership of residential land.  We have no adequate public debate about the underlying issues of immigration, banks, or taxes. In the 1990’s 10% of bank loans went to mortgages – now it is 50%. A tax regime that favours negative gearing is welfare for the rich at the expense of the poor. We have a broken system with poor infrastructure as a result. We need leadership that disrupts the bipartisan inactivity of the status quo. Generation Rent, Shamubeel's recently published book is a available here.

DeBoniDita De Boni noted that even her relatively well-off family struggles to cope with the cost of living in Auckland, and she sees many families are having great difficulty. Auckland is becoming unaffordable and unliveable for a diverse range of people.  The NZ Herald and its readership have focussed on house prices as a recurring issue, but the multiple unaddressed aspects of the problem point to Government policy neglect and leadership alignment with corporate interests and the rich. Not politically aligned herself, Dita is dismayed at the lack of collective initiatives. There are many examples overseas, such as California taking a hard stance against abuse of water for personal benefit. NZ's hands-off philosopy resists such ntervention. Auckland Council is handicapped by Government’s failure to act in the public good. Government has no vision for Auckland, but reacts to crises in a short term manner.

She also noted that, while there are many public facilities and services for families and kids in central Auckland, in the outer suburbs this is not the case. The trains to Pukekohe, for example, are OK, but public transport after that is inadequate. We need services, green spaces, for kids and the elderly right across Auckland. What is needed is a new form of urban infrastructure. Politicians need to look after everyone. To achieve this we also need to deal with tax loop holes and lack of transparency around political donations.

UdaleMartin Udale has lived in Auckland for 12 years and is a great supporter of city living. But it is important that cities have a vision that is strong and enduring. It needs to be stated often leading to clear strategies, and parties should be held accountable to those commitments, with deadlines on key matters. The time now is to stop talking and start doing. Quality is the key, but this includes quality leadership and quality institutions.  

He says the standard of the public debate is awful. We need to encourage the “it” factor that gives good vibes. Local Government has an important role and legitimate interest in the whole picture of what makes a good city – it should not just be concerned about drains. We need innovation to attract capital and talent. Martin is optimistic that things are getting better, but we need to involve the people who will be affected for the next 25 years in the debate and decision making.