Auckland's future is brighter than Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

Auckland has secured a solid ranking in a new survey of international cities, but faces big challenges addressing housing shortages, transport problems and environmental pressures.

To follow is an excerpt from a story in the New Zealand Herald. You can view the original here.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is chuffed about the city's position in the middle of the pack of how international cities plan, govern and design their metropolises.

Even better for the city's number one cheerleader, Auckland is ahead of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which, in Goff's eyes, are all impressive cities.

Auckland came in at 13th place out of 24 international cities in an index measuring how cities are planned and responding to future challenges.

What is encouraging for Auckland is that many of the plans are being put in place and we are starting to see funding come through to deliver on them.

Seattle took out first place - ahead of Copenhagen, Stockholm, New York and Vancouver - on the 2018 WSP Opus Global "A Tale of Our Cities" Index.

Auckland was the only New Zealand city included in the index.

At the Auckland launch of the report yesterday, Goff said it was valuable to gain external assessment on how the city is performing and meeting the challenges of urbanisation relative to other global cities.

"Our ranking at 13th leaves room for ambition to match and exceed the performance of the Scandinavian and North American cities which dominate the top of the list," he said.

Auckland is a city that punches above its weight in a country that does the same, the report said.

It pointed to the city's strengths with its expanse of regional parks and creation of new facilities, such as the Viaduct Basin, Wynyard Quarter and an "exemplary new" art gallery, bringing a modern urban atmosphere to the city. Internet access was also a big plus.

"The cultural and placemaking of the city has been bolstered by a major planning overhaul for growth and a renewed public investment in metro rail infrastructure, that will set Auckland well on the path to a stronger global position," the report said.

The report also pointed at the city's challenges with public transport, congested roads and the housing crisis, which Goff said was putting pressure on the environment.

He said the city's rapid growth with a rich mix of cultures had created challenges, but the council was responding with planning measures like the Unitary Plan, leading to more intensive multi-unit terrace housing and apartments, and a 10-year budget with $26 billion to go into housing, transport, the environment, parks and community facilities.

Another 800 cars a week were making congestion worse, said Goff, saying more motorways and single occupancy cars would not solve the problem. Transformational change to public transport, cycling and walking was the answer.

Over the next decade, the Government and council will spend $32 billion on transport, including $6b on light rail - a modern version of trams, Goff said.

The report said: "Auckland needs a transport system that provides a genuine choice for people, enables access to opportunities, achieves safety, health and environmental outcomes and underpins economic performance."

It cited progress over the past decade or so, including electrification of the rail network, major investments in the bus system and the start of $3.4b city rail link, the largest transport infrastructure project in New Zealand.

When it came to long-terming planning, the report said Auckland was up there with Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Stockholm and London - although the report referred to Auckland's bold vision of being the "World's Most Liveable City", a term coined by former Mayor Len Brown and quietly abandoned by Goff.

Auckland also got the thumbs up for its commitment on climate change and goal to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2040.

Top-scoring Seattle was praised for its moderate climate, home to global giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia, and abundant job opportunities.

But like Auckland, it has housing shortages, housing affordability issues and the third largest homeless population in the United States.

WSP Opus New Zealand managing director Ian Blair said the index was different to all the "liveable city" indexes in that it was not about the "here and now" but how cities were being planned for the future.

Blair, an Australian who has lived in Auckland for 11 years, said Auckland was in good shape.

"What is encouraging for Auckland is that many of the plans are being put in place and we are starting to see funding come through to deliver on them. It gives me confidence that we will continue to be ranked as a world class city," Blair said.

What the reports says

Green space - The quality of Auckland's natural environment, including its harbour, islands, beaches and green spaces is central to attracting visitors and permanent migrants. However, that same population growth has put the region under environmental pressure.

Housing - The Auckland Unitary Plan is one of the planning instruments that guides how Auckland will meet its residential needs. It sets a direction for a compact model or urban development and quality of growth.

Climate change - Auckland is helping its people to adopt low-carbon lifestyles. The city is committed to growing one million trees and is about to issue its first green bonds to fund green infrastructure assets and projects.

Public transport - While public transport use has tripled since the mid-1990s, the overall demand for travel is outstripping the capacity gains and a further boost in public transport provision is needed.

Freight transport - Increased travel times and poor reliability have a severe impact on the freight industry and the efficient movement of goods and services.

Internet - Auckland has almost complete coverage for fast internet connectivity across the city. The fibre rollout is nearing completion, and will enable most citizens to access fibre broadband in their home or business.

Water - The central part of Auckland is still served by a combined system with pipes transporting both wastewater and stormwater. In rain events, diluted wastewater is discharged directly into Auckland's harbours. Additional infrastructure will be required to reduce the amount of stormwater entering the wastewater system.