ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK JUNE 2016
We are forever reading of issues facing our nearest regional neighbour and potentially biggest domestic market for Northland’s goods and services. Auckland is under huge pressure from its high population growth rate that is twice that of the rest of New Zealand and one of the fastest growing cities in the developed world.
Arguably rapid growth in population is not the main contributor to the Auckland’s problems. It is the failure of government – central and local – over many decades to plan, invest and deliver the infrastructure that Auckland needs. As far back as the 1960s, Auckland planners proposed an integrated region-wide road and public transport system to cope with the projected high population growth. With population growth ahead of the predictions of early planners the city’s transport infrastructure is 50 years behind where it should be.
A growing housing shortage was forecast long ago, as was the need for upgraded and expanded water, wastewater and other utilities including broadband. It is a city that is in ‘catch up’ mode and suffering from decades of under investment in basic infrastructure. As one of Auckland’s neighbour region’s we need to take stock from their mistakes. Anecdotal reports from around the upper North Island suggest there is a growing sense of concern that Auckland’s problems are spreading across its border.
First, as Auckland struggles to cope, more Aucklanders are looking to the region’s for the lifestyle and opportunities that are being frustrated from living and working in New Zealand’s biggest and highly diverse and multi-cultural city.
Second, provincial centres such as ours along with the likes of Tauranga, Hamilton and Rotorua, all have considerable potential for businesses to be successful and competitive, but all are reporting growing pressure from inadequate infrastructure.
We cannot allow our region to make Auckland’s mistakes. We will not solve our problems with the same thinking that Auckland has persisted with to create its difficulties. We must ensure that our local councils are easy to do business with and most of all listen and then acts to meet the infrastructure and service future needs of our local community.
In watching Auckland struggle to untangle its problems, regional business leaders must not be content to stand on the sidelines, watch, feel and smug. We need to muster up the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing and engage to ensure our region is catering for the infrastructure needs of tomorrow’s community.