Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

What’s The Economic Progress Been?

The last update on Auckland Council’s Economic Development Strategy web page was in late 2013. There’s an encouragement to sign up to the quarterly Chief Economist update’s – but the most recent of these is not included. In a separate section there is page on Growing Our Local Economy. This talks about Draft Economic Action Plans being complete for the Franklin, Orākei, Waitematā and Whau Local Board areas. Final plans were actually adopted a year ago.

Now, poor website content management is a common problem in too many large organisations – but these issues speak to a bigger problem of failing to track and regularly report on key initiatives. How do we know we are making progress if we don’t monitor it. As former New York Mayor, and potential Auckland investor, Michael Bloomberg famously said: “In God we trust, everyone else bring data.”

The 130 paqe Economic Development Strategy was launched with a big fanfare in Manukau in September 2012 following more than a year’s preparation. Two and half years on, if you’re looking for ‘the data’ to see what is working and what needs course correction – you’d be disappointed. The 2014 Auckland Plan update made reference to some of its activity, but not the detailed follow-up that tells us what’s actually happening (although productivity declined, rather than the supposed increase). The Chief Economist’s Quarterly Updates give the macro picture (GDP picked up, but was only just above the rest of NZ average) but this isn’t the report for a strategy follow-through.

Part of the problem is the (former) Chief Planning Officer’s department was restructured last year and the Economic Development Department disbanded with its team distributed to other parts of council. This was meant to indicate the planning work had reduced as we moved to implementation. That’s all well and good – but how do we know if the implementation is going to plan if we don’t publically report on the original plan.

The Mayor returns this week from his, I estimate, ninth Mayoral overseas trip. I’ve looked for any official reporting on the value-add of these visits to Auckland as they, like some central government travel, can be a target for criticism. But there is nothing obvious to find – not even the Mayor’s official trip reports. The only ready reference is from Waterfront Auckland’s Chair Sir Bob Harvey who provided two reports from the Singapore and China trips he accompanied the Mayor on last year.

Where is the follow-up on what Auckland has achieved for the investment made? Sir Bob’s helpful summaries provide good content that could be used to determine whether the investment opportunities mentioned eventuated. Certainly the private sector businesses who pay their own way on these visits can tell us in 6 months or a year whether these trips are paying dividends for Auckland inc.

Auckland needs a leader who is better grounded in how the economy works, what Auckland’s economic strategy is, and the importance of monitoring it. I wonder if someone in New York or Los Angeles provided that value-add last week.

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