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PM: Metro Project Action Plan Launch

Embargoed until 2.00 pm
Friday 6 October 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Metro Project Action Plan Launch

Aotea Centre
Auckland

2.00 pm

Friday 6 October 2006

Thank you for the invitation to me to be present at the launch of the Metro Project Action Plan. This is a significant occasion for all of us who share a vision for the development of Auckland as a world class city.

In the 21st century, cities compete with other cities both within and between nations. The challenge for New Zealand is to develop a significant city which is capable of reinforcing its importance in the international system of cities. As an established trading nation linked into the globalised economy, New Zealand needs a city of world class status.

New Zealand has only one metropolis of international scale – Auckland. It houses close to a third of our population and of GDP; it is our major business and investment hub; and it houses the largest knowledge base in the country. The recent publication by the Committee for Auckland - the Case for Auckland - reinforces just how important Auckland is to New Zealand as a whole.

But all that doesn’t guarantee Auckland world class status. By international standards, Auckland is not a large metropolis. There are approximately 400 cities in the world which have more than one million citizens. Even in our neighbourhood, Australia has five cities with populations as large as or larger than Auckland. Auckland needs to stand up and be heard if it is to compete with cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, San Francisco, or Vancouver.

The key challenge for Auckland is how to become a world class city and a greater engine for growth for both the city-region and New Zealand. We cannot be complacent and just hope that that will happen. We will have to work hard together to ensure that it does.

Auckland’s performance is also critical to our government’s drive to transform the New Zealand economy. Auckland must be a vibrant, dynamic city where highly talented people want to live, work, and study, and where firms want to do business. As the major gateway between New Zealand and the world, Auckland needs to be more internationally connected in terms of its businesses, its people, and its knowledge base.

To lift its performance Auckland also needs to deepen its innovation clusters, and have world class infrastructure across transport, energy supply, and broadband. It must embrace its social and cultural diversity. It needs strong, well aligned leadership to enable a step up in performance to occur.

While government has an important role to play in the transformation of Auckland, major commitment is required from local government, business, and the wider community too.

It is encouraging to see the synergy between what the government has identified as important for Auckland, and what has come through the Metro Project Action Plan as priorities for action.

For example, there is the emphasis on:
(1) building strong and focused leadership in the region with an agreed vision and one plan for the future. There has been some very public movement in this area, not least from the Mayoral Forum, and its chief executives. Of course there is a range of views about how best regional governance and leadership could be enhanced to meet the needs of Auckland and New Zealand. These differences, however, should not obscure the very significant level of agreement across business and community leadership, and central, regional, and local government, about the outcomes sought, the need for change and the opportunities which exist. For its part, the government is committed to working with the region to establish the way forward.

(2) building world class information and communications technology capabilities will enable our firms to connect to the world and will underpin increases in productivity and economic growth. The government has already rolled out its Broadband Challenge nationwide, and I welcome the successful bid made by North Shore and Vector to extend broadband on the North Shore. We believe there is more we can do. Ross Peat is leading the Metro workstream on fast tracking widespread access to high speed broadband. Hon David Cunliffe, Minister of Communications, and his officials will be engaging with Ross to see where central government can assist.

(3) A secure energy supply is critical to Auckland’s future performance, and the government is committed to ensuring that. We support the proposal that Auckland should develop an energy prospectus so that the region better understands its own energy needs, and can identify ways of improving its energy efficiency and resilience. Hon David Parker, Minister of Energy, and his officials are willing to offer assistance with this regional initiative, and to engage with the region in the development of the New Zealand Energy Strategy over the coming months.

(4) Innovation and the innovative capability of firms are vital for driving productivity and growth: This is a critical issue for the whole economy and it is reflected in the emphasis on innovation in the government’s economic transformation agenda. We have been deepening our understanding of how innovation works at a national level, and are committed to working with the universities, business, and research institutes in the Auckland region to apply that in the regional context.

(5) It is also appropriate to mention the Rugby World Cup. The hosting of this event provides the Auckland metro region with great opportunities for leverage, and for a long lasting legacy.

Cities which host large events and manage them properly can simultaneously progress their development aspirations. There are examples worldwide of such events leading to increased tourism, job creation, improvements to infrastructure and amenities, and an ongoing increase in demand for goods and services. As well there are the social and cultural benefits which flow from positive changes to the urban fabric, and, in the case of a sports event, in increased participation in the sport concerned.

The Metro Project Action Plan has identified the creation of a legacy of benefits from Rugby World Cup 2011 as one of its priority action areas, and the government endorses that prioritisation. Joint action to maximise this opportunity will enable us to gain traction across a number of interlocking issues.

Decisions have yet to be taken about where the stadium for the Cup will be in Auckland. The suggestion that it be located in the vicinity of the waterfront raises important questions about the development of that area, and about the present quality and image of Auckland’s CBD. A more attractive ‘shop window’ for Auckland and New Zealand in the area is surely possible. Auckland’s waterfront has the potential to be regarded as the finest in the Pacific, and it could be part of our competitive advantage against cities such as Sydney or Melbourne. Its future deserves, and must receive, careful attention.

Bringing to life all of the actions required to transform Auckland is a great challenge. The Metro Project Action Plan supports the development of a platform for delivering a single integrated plan for the region. The government agrees, and looks forward to working closely with Auckland on how this can be achieved.

The Metro Project Action Plan moves us all towards a joint vision and a joint plan for action. It offers the opportunity for us to work together to make Auckland one of the premier cities of Australasia and a world class city in its own right. That is an exciting challenge, and one on which the government will continue to work with Auckland to meet.

ENDS


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