My friend and colleague William Shepherd directed me to a piece at Quartz by Michele Acuto and Parag Khanna, on how cities are driving globalization more than nationsâa theme I touched upon on this blog in March 2010. As he said, I had called it three years ago, though admittedly Acuto and Khanna have fleshed things out far better.
It’s not just the fact that cities elicit less pluralistic feelings among the populationâWellingtonians felt pretty strongly when PM John Key made his comment that our city was ‘dying’âbut there are practical reasons for cities to lead the way.
First, we can’t afford to wait for central government to take the lead on a lot of policies. When it comes to economic development, cities should be able to mobilize a lot more quickly. The idea is that cities are leaner, flatter and more responsive to change. The reality is that some are mired in bureaucracy, and if voters agree that that has to change, then I would love to see that reflected in this year’s local body elections. Based on what I’ve seen, you won’t find the agent for change within politics, howeverâthey have had more than enough opportunity to voice this very view. This has to come from outside politics, from people who understand what cities are truly capable of, especially when they engage and realize their potential.
Acuto and Khanna cite several examples where cities have had to go above and beyond what their national governments have provided, in the areas of security, climate change and academia. Even stock exchanges are merging between cities:
Stock exchange mergers testify to this changing geography of influence: the popularized link between New York and Frankfurt via the 2011 talks on the NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse merger only hinted at a wider trend that, in the past two years alone, has seen negotiations between Londonâs and Torontoâs stock exchanges, and similar discussions between Sydney and Singapore, Chicago and Sao Paulo, Dubai and Mumbai or the ShenzhenâHong KongâShanghai triangle, all of which indicate how global finance networks are being redrawn through emerging global cities.
In my discussions with MBIE, the New Zealand Government has been aware of this trend, but other than the discussions about regional reform, very little of it has surfaced in Wellington. Yet the government has a focus on Auckland, and Christchurch will be state of the art once its rebuilding is completed. We have a perfect opportunity to use our inherent agility, if only we had our eyes on the prize, and moved forward rather than played politics, stuck with “think local, act local” thinking.
Secondly, cities should find the task of marketing themselves less confusing. A nation-branding exercise, for example, hits a snag early on. When I quizzed Wally Olins about this many years ago, he identified a very obvious problem: which government department pays for it? Is this the province of tourism, internal affairs, foreign affairs, trade, or something else? A city should be able to establish sufficient channels of communications between its organizations and trust in oneâin Wellington’s case, tourismâto handle it. If these channels are broken, again, it’s going to take some new blood and real change to fix them and inspire a spirit of cooperation. There’s a pressing enough need to do so, with a vision that can be readily shared. We need to think differently in the 2010s.
Thirdly, cities can foster offshore relationships more effectively. New Zealand, as a country, has not done as well as it should in promoting itself in various Asian cities, for instance. In one major city, I have had feedback that New Zealand stands out for the wrong reasons, in not having its chief diplomat join other countries in celebrating a particular national holiday. We seem to be on auto-pilot, not being as active as we should. Yet, as Acuto and Khanna point out, almost all global economic activity is being driven by 400 cities. Wellington, especially, should be able to take the initiative and head to the world’s major cities, promoting ourselves and ensuring that the innovators and enterprises here can hook up with others. We can establish trade and cultural links more quickly if we go to the source. Many cities and provinces even have their own economic offices, so they expect such approaches: they want to work at the city level.
And if we head offshore to promote our own, then we should expect that foreign direct investment can flow more effectively inward, too, having established that relationship.
This all makes sense if you consider how democratization has changed the world we live in. On so many things already, we cut out the middle man: in printing, we no longer need to go to typesetters or plate-makers; online publishing has meant our words can go to the public on blogs; social media have allowed us greater access to companies and politicians. Air travel is more affordable than it was 30 years ago. Cities have the resources to engage with citizens and learn about their needs. Offshore relationships can be maintained between trips using Skype and other digital resources. The nation-state will remain relevant for some time, but cities can deliver more relevant, more specialized and more customized programmes in a more timely fashion. Now, do we have the courage to declare that we no longer want “politics as usual” this year?
Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington lifeâbut in 2009 some felt it was a gimmick.
When I proposed free wifi as a campaign policy in 2009, it was seen as gimmicky by some. I wasnât a serious candidate, some thought. But those ideas that have demand, such as wifi, have a way of becoming mainstream. The gimmicky tag is lost.
Just as it was lost with the microwave oven, the compact disc, or the cellular phone.
Not that the wifi idea was anything that new. Nor was it that original. It was simply a logical thing to propose for anyone who had done a spot of travelling (perhaps I did more than my rivals that time?), and had seen the potential of having the internet on tap to those using mobile devices. (The irony of this is, of course, I was not a regular user of mobile devices, at least not till they got to the technology that I expected of them.) If by providing such infrastructure, others could benefit, then was there anything to lose?
Former Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky had a target to make our city the first capital in the world to be half-wired, that is, to have half its population on the internet. In the 1990s, when people were still wondering what on earth the internet was, that seemed an unnecessary goal. But leadership demands that one stays ahead of the curve, otherwise what point is there? If people wanted leaders to be reactive, then they may as well vote same-again politicians.
Iâm still pushing for extending wifi, especially in the places where library funding cuts have hurt resources for Wellingtonians. During a recent visit to the Johnsonville library, where staff could not discuss the impact of the cuts, I at least solicited the librariansâ belief that their places of work were used by all sectors of the community. Every age, every culture. And this library was particularly buzzing, as a community library should be.
Itâs going to take rebuilding our business sectorâwhich forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to dateâto at least get our economy moving and our ratesâ base less dependent on citizens. But on the library issues, extending wifi into certain suburbs can help, especially those hardest hit by the cuts. Provide an uncapped service for those accessing certain educational sites, for instanceâitâs technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
Weâve seen how the waterfront system is used through the year, and how it helps people connect. But as with the original system, it sends a signal to others, including those wanting to invest in our city, that Wellington is open to high-value, high-tech businesses. Why should our suburbs not receive the same âopen for businessâ invitation?
Collaboration, after all, helps fuel the human mind, toward new ideas and innovations.
On that note, too, other things can be open. The 2010 campaign saw my support for open source. Itâs still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. Iâve seen first-hand, through a mash-up competition I helped on a few years back (I mentored one of the winners), how providing open data gets creative juices flowing.
So why not, in line with all of the above, make our bus and train data open to the public? Presently, Metlink wonât be releasing its real-time information (RTI) to the public, but if it did, potentially, an innovative Wellington company can use these data for live maps, for instance. Find out more information than the RTI that’s being delivered at bus stops. It is called public transport, after all, so why not public data? The most obvious app is a live map of buses that works much like the computer graphics in an Americaâs Cup raceâonce gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, itâs demanded by broadcasters. The New Zealand innovation of high-resolution, three-dimensional TV weather maps is now de rigueur around the world, too.
If I can think of something like that, imagine what our really creative, lateral thinkers can come up with.
While some city data are open, we should continue this trend, especially when it comes to data that innovations can stem from. At the risk of sounding trite, ‘It’s limited only by your imagination.’
And what if such technology became so highly demanded that another exporter, another high-growth firm, was created right here in Wellington?
The potential economic impact of âgimmicksâ is very serious indeed.
So, for the last 90 days Google found no problems. That’s a pretty shabby record for a known malware distributor. The short story is none of the Social Media Today sites were infected with malware, and Google’s hysteria took down over 175 sites. And how is their warning not libelous?
There is no due process, no meaningful appeal, and Google won’t talk to anyone. And they get away with it because they have a giant monopoly on search and Internet services.
To close, she writes:
When a kid throws a rock through your store window, she buys you a new window. Doesn’t Google owe a whole lot of people for disrupting their businesses for a day?
So âŚ rock, meet hard place, our brave new Google world devoid of humans, guilty until proven innocent, and no penalties for Google’s mistakes.
I won’t go on about our battle, since regular readers are more than aware of our many concerns with Google. Carla says more succinctly what I have been saying about Google’s malware procedures for a good while. They’re broken, and Google either needs to put in more effort than the two part-time guys working in that department, on whom far too much of the internet depends, or stop involving itself in a business that it’s not very good at, especially if it publishes libel regularly.
Wellington, May 27 (JY&A Media) Wellington City mayoral candidate Jack Yan says if he is elected, he will move to see the establishment of a new inner-city park on Cuba Street.
The Wellington City Council’s 2012â22 long-term plan budgets for NZ$3Âˇ2 million to be spent on new inner-city park space and Mr Yan proposes that the money be spent on Cuba Street.
âIdeally, I would like to see Council invest in a new park on the present Wilson car park next to Swan Lane on Cuba Street.
âThe site receives a large amount of sun and Cuba Street has high foot traffic. There is also a large number of apartment buildings in the area, with further developments, such as the INK Apartments on Ghuznee Street planned. It’s a natural fit.
âA park space here will make Cuba Street an even more attractive destination. This will help bring businesses back to the street, which have been turned away through earthquake strengthening concerns.’
Mr Yan says that the space will also encourage greater collaboration between Wellingtonians, who will find it a useful meeting-place.
He says if elected later this year, he will work energetically with other councillors to direct officers to evaluate this and other sites for an inner city park.
Mr Yan says it is part of a longer-term revitalization plan that he envisions for the Cuba Quarter, which he believes has great technological and development potential.
âIt’s been a while since a new inner city green space has been created and during this time, the inner city population has continued to rise. Inner city residents, workers and visitors, all need somewhere outdoors where they can relax.’
â˘ Mayoral candidate Jack Yan says he will move to see the Council construct a new inner-city park on the Wilson car park site on Swan Lane and Cuba Street.
â˘ WCC has already budgeted NZ$3Âˇ2 million for a new park
â˘ Mr Yan believes construction of a park on Cuba Street will help reverse the trend on Cuba Street of businesses moving elsewhere.
â˘ WCC’s capital value for the site is NZ$1Âź million
I’ve known of this for some time through Medinge: the globalizing of The New York Times. This has meant the retirement of The International HeraldâTribune name, one which brand experts are divided on.
On the one hand, the NYT doesn’t have it wrong. There are global newspaper brands already, namely those that have taken the opportunity of the internet, viewing it was a chance to build their goodwill, rather than as a threat. The Guardian comes to mind, and even the Daily Mail has become a well known international news source. The snobs must hate it. It’s obviously worked out that The New York Times‘ brand is stronger than The International HeraldâTribuneâs, and in this globalized era, it wants to push only one.
Others, meanwhile, seem to have regressed. The Timesâs momentum has been lost, thanks to its paywall experiment, at the precise time others went on a growth spurt. The Daily Telegraph, which for the 1990s and a part of the 2000s was the source for online news, has fallen behind other dailies.
What this century has shown us is the realization of global businesses, regardless of how large or small you are. If you don’t capitalize on things at an international level, you risk becoming an also-ran. Everything you do potentially reaches the whole planet, so why not build on that as part of your strategy at the very beginning?
I may be affected by talks with my father at a young age about how foreign exchange worked, and my godfather first introduced me to the currency conversion tables in the newspaper each day when he wondered about my converting prices of cars from Motor into what they could cost in New Zealand. I must have been around seven at the time. From there, you get the inevitable idea that exports are good, just as valuable as selling to a loyal domestic market.
As of today, as the image above shows, The New York Times is advertising its global edition to New Zealanders. That’s a Kiwi-targeted ad in the pic above from one of our advertising providers on Lucire. Yes, it is selling its tablet and smartphone accessâand why not? Again, it makes perfect sense to capitalize on the available technology.
The numbers say that portable devices outnumber traditional desktop ones. My feeling that things will converge even further, and later this decade, the ĂŚsthetic will be such that you won’t be able to tell the difference between the app and a traditional print publication in terms of the look.
If older businesses hadn’t begun down this route earlier, then it will take a massive corporate cultural change to make it happen. Newer ones may well be at an advantage. The message remains clear: if you don’t treat all people, regardless of nationality, as someone connected to you, then you’re missing out.
The below was written on April 22, 2013, in response to an article in The Dominion Post. It was offered to the newspaper as an opâed, then to The Wellingtonian, but it was eventually declined.
The Dominion Postâs headline on April 22 confirmed what many of us knew after numerous friends and colleagues left Wellington over the last several years.
Our population growth is below the national average, as are our employment and economic growth. In fact, the regional Wellington economy is stagnant.
In 2010, I stated that we needed to look at our creative sector, and encourage creative clusters, to get Wellingtonâs economy back on track. Even then it was evident that the early 2010s were not going to get off to a healthy start. If we were to get central governmentâs support for any projectsâeven the Mayorâs light-rail programmeâthen surely the wisest thing would be to increase the industry in our city first?
The free wifi I campaigned on was never meant to be seen in isolation. It was a signal to international businesses in that sector that Wellington was open to investment and collaboration. That inward investment and sharing of knowledge could, in turn, help local firms expand and export.
We had reached the limits of our natural resources, so we needed to start using intellectual property, and increase R&D in our city. While ICT is healthy in Wellington, the priority must be to identify companies, in this and other high-value sectors, that can become nationally or internationally competitive with the right nudge. We should not be, as the late Sir Paul Callaghan stated in a 2011 address, locked into a single sectorâand that was what the clusters were all about.
With my 2013 candidacy, not much has changed about these ideas. The real difference is that they have become far more pressing.
The next mayor needs to work with oneâs counterparts in the region and agree on identifying, using rigorous criteria, which are our next champions. Which firms, for instance, are those that are sitting on $1 million revenues today that can be at $10 million shortly, if they were given the right exposure, contacts or opportunities?
And since nationally, high-tech exports are growing at 11 per cent per annum, according to the World Bank, itâs not a bad sector to start with. It just shouldnât be the only one.
Wellington businesses are not asking for hand-outs, but the right connections. These firms also need to be encouraged to look beyond just being content with a small patch, when Wellington business-people often hold great ideals and more socially responsible ways of doing things. These can, in fact, inform the way business is conducted in other cities, and contribute to how New Zealand is marketed and seen abroad.
I do not advocate a policy of âgrowth for growthâs sakeâ. But I do argue that the innovative way successful Wellington businesses have approached their sectors can take a larger share of the global pie.
In my case, itâs putting 26 yearsâ experience on the line, the majority of that in exporting frictionless products and services.
We can opt for politics as usual, or identify and nurture the right players in our business sector.
When it comes to business, it must be international in scope, inspiring politicians at the national level about what Wellington is made of.
We can consider electing people who have spent time bridging cultures and creating those international links, which we need right now if two other cities are getting the governmentâs focus. Wellingtonâs businesses have gone under the radar for too long, and they need an ally who can balance their needs while ensuring citizensâ rights are protected.
I see our city having spent too much time breaking its own rules, and being forced to answer through formal proceedings brought by Waterfront Watch and other groups.
The system and its rules are healthy, but the players need to change, and a cultural change, internally and externally, is needed for Wellington in its local body elections.
Ford’s announcement today that it will end car production in Australia is no surprise, with the closures of Broadmeadows and Geelong. It was always a case of when, not if.
The official excuse is that no one is buying big cars any more, and the Australian dollar being too strong.
However, the real reasons are more to do with Ford’s own share price, globalization, and consolidation, a process that began years ago.
My comments, as well as those from Australian members at the AROnline Facebook group, have constantly targeted Ford for intentionally under-marketing its Falcon sedan, and I made the bolder step of saying it was a plan to shut the plant.
There is a nugget of truth in the Ford claim. Falcon sales have been trending downwards. But whereas Falcon was once a very extensive range, the current one consists of sedan and ute body styles. The economies of scale are not there, while rival Holden is able to keep the Commodore in the top 10 of passenger car sales in Australia with plenty of models off the same platform.
Upgrades to Broadmeadows would have cost a huge amount for Ford, and even now, there are aspects of preparing the bodyshells that are outsourced abroad that have proved uncompetitive.
The Falcon is not a big car by modern standards. It’s smaller in most dimensions (excepting overall length) than the Mondeo. It’s no surprise that there isn’t room for a car with a large engine to fit in between Focus and Mondeo. Big car sales aren’t exactly downâbecause people are lapping up offerings from Japanese brands (like the Mazda Atenza, or 6) that have the sort of space Falcon has. And having a single two-litre Ecoboost Falcon, with an engine half the usual size for fuel economy reasons, was a half-hearted response (where’s the marketing for that?).
The changes in leadership at Ford were also a sign that things weren’t going well.
And have you visited a Ford dealer âŚ lately? I’ve been taking photos over the last year at Capital City Ford on what is on their forecourt, to prove my point. Last week was the first time I had seen a Falcon in the main new-car lot in that time (top photo). True, there were always Territorys, but a visitor would have got the impression that Ford is the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo company. If you don’t push the cars in marketing, and at point of sale, then naturally the numbers will go down.
Why did I have confidence in taking my position? Simple: Ford’s very predictable. The same technique of under-marketing was used to kill the Contour and Mystique in the US, a car which buyer trends would have told you would sell really well. Ford is very political and head office has suffered from NIH (not invented here). Things have improved under Alan Mulally, but Falcon never fitted in with those long-term plans. We’ll likely see an LWB Fusion as a Falcon replacementâthere’s life in the CD platform yetâbut the impact on the Australian economy is going to be pretty huge.
It might slow the brain drain here given the multiplier effect in the Australian economy, but overall, news this big doesn’t send a good signal to the public about manufacturing Down Underâwhen in fact the statistics, even here in Wellington, show that manufacturing remains a viable industry, if it can be done smartly.
Holden has managed to do reasonably well with its export programme, so the idea is that one should work more smartly. However, I doubt the Australian motoring and business media are going to focus much on the positives today.
The New Zealand International Convention Centre has been announced in Auckland. In 2010, my campaign team proposed a convention centre for Miramar Wharf, which would include a technology complex, in a format that could have been licensed to other countries, earning royalties for the Wellington business that came up with the idea. The location was to address concerns from the hospitality sector about taking business away from the centre city, and the proximity to the airport could have helped some of our visitors. (This is a matter of record and was briefly covered by The Dominion Post.)
I felt that the project fitted in with our city’s image. I was drawn to the idea of royalty incomes for a New Zealand business, which would have showed that Kiwi ingenuity and intellectual property could be exported in a frictionless fashion. There was also a concern that we could not attract international conventions here, even in the late 2000s, and this complex could have solved it. I had been to enough conventions and conferences overseas to have seen first-hand the sort of numbers involvedâand how we needed something ourselves. It was to preempt similar moves by other cities, long before the Sky City deal was announced.
I know there are issues with thisâincluding whether residents would want a complex there, and there would be a great need to consult with the public first. Nonetheless, it was worth raising it, and I’m grateful that it received a tiny bit of coverage, so you know I’m not engaging in revisionism today.
With hindsight, it would have respected the memorandum issued by WCC in the 1990s that a casino was not desirable for our city. I note that at the mayoral debate for the hospitality sector in 2010, opinions on a casino were divided roughly 50â50. The Dominion Post is covering this topic today, and it highlights to me that this city has been caught on the back foot again.
Wellington still strikes me as a more desirable location, with Auckland and Queenstown, for instance, a stone’s throw via an air link. It’s the same with our airport. We have an opportunity to put ourselves on the map in the next few years, while Christchurch is still rebuilding, because they will come to threaten Wellington’s position as an innovative hub within the next decade. More importantly, we need to be positioning ourselves to a global audience, something that 20th-century political thinking still prevents us from doing.
That didnât take long, John.
I know, the economic statistics arenât pleasant.
Wellingtonâs economy is stagnant and our population growth lags behind Aucklandâs and Christchurchâs. I did predict this in 2010.
The difference is that I donât give up on us quite so quickly.
I donât think political leaders should.
Not if weâre looking at a long-term view. Yes, the last three years havenât been great, but then weâre not rebuilding from as large a shock as our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.
In fact, if you have spent any time here, and I suspect that since you work here, you would have seen that the ingredients that men like the late Sir Paul Callaghan believed could lead an export recovery are here. Innovative thinking, intellectual capital. We just havenât nurtured it properly because weâve entrusted same-again politicians to do the job.
But, Prime Minister, youâre right to at least raise your points, because at least weâve kicked off a debate.
A debate about just what Wellington is, and should be in the next half-century.
This is not just a knee-jerk, defensive response from a little town so offended by comments made in Takapuna.
We recognize that there are problems, and since itâs election year, itâs our opportunity to fix them.
Youâll see from todayâs reactions, in the video that Andy Boreham has filmed here, that thereâs civic pride in Wellington, most likely because Wellingtonians see what I do: a more cultured, globally minded workforce thatâs intelligent and savvy. We know Sir Peter Jacksonâs not aloneâbecause there are so many other innovators here, not necessarily in something as glamorous as film. Theyâre the backbone of our cityâs economy.
Youâll also see that this identification with and sticking up for Wellington is the same energy that drives everything from trade to Olympic bids, more so than nation branding efforts have ever managed.
My plans, if elected, call for not only identifying and promoting those great firms that are innovative and socially responsible, but the use of my knowledge globally to do just what is needed for Wellington. Like the cityâs next big firmsâthose who have Weta, Trade Me, 42 Below potentialsâtheyâre all waiting there, their latent energies ready to be released. I see them regularly, and the regionâs mayors and I can work with Grow Wellington to identify them with a new set of criteria, then market them properly.
Itâs why in 2010, and again in 2013, Iâve made innovation a priority. Free wifi, which I proposed and we now have, was only a signal to say Wellington is open for business. The costs of extending it are relatively low. Pedestrianization, greening the CBD, and transportation improvements are neededâand we have the nous and the knowledge to get them done.
If prime ministers can lose faith in a city in three years, I believe we can begin rebuilding it in less timeâsince, as youâve seen, weâre united. Youâve given us the perfect opportunity to prove our mettle.
And you know my record, Prime Minister. If I can work at the C-level with companies around the world, I can work with central government, whomever is in power, for a fair deal for Wellingtonians. Weâre not asking for sympathyâweâre getting ready to show you what weâre made of.
My Facebook campaign group (Back Jack 2013) is getting some traction, though my Facebook page does have more members. Nevertheless, I’m very open to discuss my policiesâas much as I have been around Wellington soliciting ideas and feedback, there’s nothing like getting your views on how I’ve interpreted them in my manifesto.
Today, Jonathan Ball asked on my Facebook group: ‘Do you have a view on the Wellington bus services not offering a student discount like they do in other centers?’
My response: ‘Hi Jonathan: my feeling is that this is a regional issue (as the Regional Council looks after transport), and we would work with the Regional Council to ensure a fairer deal for all Wellingtonians, not just students. As I said with transport issues in 2010âthe year there was a huge fare increaseâwe need to demonstrate that we have policies that can show GWRC we are headed on an upward economic path. There was no clear illustration of this three years ago, and the latest statistics show that this is still absent. They may be inclined, then, to put up fares again to cover their costs. The GWRC has gone on record to say that this is their reasonâthat itâs expensive to run public transport in Wellington. By putting up fares (annually, incidentally), they say that they can spare ratepayers ratesâ increases.
âShort of having a policy that can improve our economy sustainably and responsibly, the pattern is bound to continue. Itâs why Iâve highlighted economic issues in my manifesto, and why I plan to identify the real high-growth firms in our city and connect them to international markets so they can expand sensibly. We then provide a more compelling model for those who partner with us on funding.
âThatâs my answer at a general level. More specifically, I understand that some of the student discounts being discussed will see those from further out (e.g. Hutt City) derive a greater benefit. Is this a fair scenario if Wellington City has to bear a good deal of the cost? Are there sufficient buses going from those areas to the city? This is where Iâd like public input, and it leans toward the need to consider regional reform, to aid transportation issues.
âOne easily implemented plan we have discussed on our team is to encourage lower off-peak fares for students, which will in the short term get around the GWRCâs fears about the cost of providing public transport here. If the buses are already travelling certain routes during off-peak times, then why not have them as occupied as possible?
âIf we are to have a model, I want to make sure that itâs fair for everyone, and works for everyone. It would be something I would be happy to work on for Wellingtonians at the regional level.’ The dialogue has continued at the Facebook groupâI invite you to share your thoughts.
Some other topics have already been raised there since I announced my campaign last month, and your input would be welcome there, too.