Posts tagged ‘mayoralty’


Steve Guttenberg shows us how a Kiwi accent is done

27.12.2013

Back in September, The Dominion Post claimed on its front page that I have an ‘accent’ that is holding me back. It was a statement which the editor-in-chief subsequently apologized for, and which she had removed from the online edition—you can judge for yourself here if the claim was a falsehood. Still, despite having lived here for 37 years and having grown up here, I thought I had better take lessons from the great actor, Steve Guttenberg, on what a New Zealander sounds like, since evidently I was still too foreign for a newspaper reporter.
   Head to around 49 minutes for Steve in the persona of Lobo Marunga, from Auckland, in The Boyfriend School, which aired in New Zealand as Don’t Tell Her It’s Me. Forget Sir Ben Kingsley in Ender’s Game.

   My thanks to all those on Twitter and Facebook who complained to the newspaper back in September. The plus side is turning fictions like this into what they should be: a source of humour and entertainment.

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Posted in humour, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, USA, Wellington | 4 Comments »


Responding to blog comments—and where to from here?

28.10.2013

WordPress, with its automatic deactivation of Jetpack after each update, messed up, so I have no metrics for the last two months of this blog. Nor did it send me emails notifying me of your comments. It would have been useful to know how the last couple of posts went, to gauge your reaction to them on the day, rather than seeing comments now after the election. Essentially, all I have of the last two months’ stats is the above: apparently 12 people popped by yesterday. I’m pretty sure the numbers were healthier during the campaign!
   In fact, Jetpack does not update automatically any more, which shows what a faulty product it is. I’d prefer to see WordPress get back to offering statistics separately, since it’s clear that the plug-in does not do what its makers claim.
   So I apologize to the two commenters who gave me feedback on the Kapiti Airport idea and the flyover. It’s true that if blogging were a more important platform for the campaign, I’d have noticed the foul-up with Jetpack, so I take some responsibility—and maybe it is naïve to think that software works out of the box. It very rarely does. Take it from a guy who spent three days post-campaign reinstalling software.
   To David, I am talking about a long-term plan, for something to happen mid-century. However, your idea of going even further north has merit. If we regionalize, a major international airport located there could service Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa as well as Wellington.
   To Leon, sorry I didn’t get your vote, but this might explain my opposition to the flyover.
   There are a few issues here at play. First, it’s not a single flyover, but two. The first might cost in the $100 million region, and the second, I guess, will be about the same.
   As you and I know, whether it’s funded by rates or taxes doesn’t make that much difference to everyday Wellingtonians: we’re still paying for it.
   The time saving gained is minimal because, eventually, the flyovers will be choked with traffic. The bottlenecks will remain exactly where they are: the Mt Vic Tunnel and Tory Street.
   Now, if there was a plan that cost under $10 million for the immediate area and delivered the same traffic flow improvement, then it’s worth looking at. The good news is that there is: Richard Reid’s proposal, the one that seems to get no traction in the media, yet it’s elegant, and it works.
   Richard’s had a lot of expertise looking at these solutions and if Wellington indeed favours innovation—though the council’s decision to abolish the ICT portfolio is a retrograde step that signals the opposite—then we need to be hearing from him.
   When you think about the entire project as central government has envisaged it—two Mt Vic Tunnels (though I am beginning to see the merit of this part at least), two flyovers, and even more changes at the Terrace Tunnel end—we’re looking at $500 million.
   I’m just not convinced it will get us bang for the buck, especially if we ratepayers haven’t been told what the options are. All we tend to get, especially in the mainstream media, is “one flyover or no flyover”. If those were the sole choices—and they’re not—then I can see why you’d feel I might be letting the side down, especially since (I’m guessing) we both get stuck in traffic jams around the Basin Reserve on a regular basis.
   I’m deeply thankful for those who voted for me—18 per cent once the preferences were distributed is an improvement, as were 10,000 votes (or least a whisker shy of the number). We ran a grass roots’ campaign that was dismissed by some media, but we showed that Wellingtonians can think for ourselves and that we have a voice. We should create conditions in which our best private enterprise can do its thing, and not, as some of my opponents were so keen to do, go cap-in-hand to central government, thereby going against global trends by centralizing more power with national politicians. This city still needs a rebrand to overcome a tired one. On the campaign team, we have a desire to continue the points in my manifesto: it shouldn’t matter who is mayor. We should still try to identify the high-growth firms, promote innovation in our capital, and act on as many of the points as possible. Wellington is looking at a game-changing decade and we should grasp the opportunity.

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Posted in business, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Mind the gap

25.09.2013

People have rightly asked me my positions on transport, the environment, the Basin Reserve flyover, and libraries.
   These weren’t put in my manifesto in April 2013 because I expected that candidates (whomever they might be—since only Dr Keith Johnson had declared then) would have largely the same views on them. I was wrong.
   Transport: I support greater public transport use. I advocate for a graphical app that shows where a bus or train is, live, on a smartphone, to make things more predictable. I support cycleways, and am most interested in Martin Hanley’s proposal to preserve as many parking spaces as possible—though additional driver training would be important. WCC’s budget for cycling should be increased given that there are more Wellingtonians using this mode.
   In 2010, I was not in favour of the Basin Reserve flyover because I had always believed that teleworking, staggering the hours at which we could arrive at and leave work, would be a far more sensible solution. The more roads you build, the more congestion you’ll get. This is the Downs–Thomson paradox, and it’s covered in my release here. However, the city appears to have been outplayed on this by NZTA and my instinct is that the flyover is proceeding.
   On libraries: I am against cuts in library funding, especially as we can find ways to fund them. With my policies on joint software licensing and looking at open source, we can get money in the kitty for them. Libraries are evolving, and we need to look at mixed use, and having no limits on wifi for educational sites. I am a regular user, and I would like other Wellingtonians to benefit from our libraries.
   On the environment, I’ve signed a pledge to Generation Zero but even without it, I was an advocate of low-carbon city. When we released Beyond Branding at the Medinge Group, it was one of the first Carbon Neutral books published. And since 2003, Lucire has been a partner of the United Nations Environment Programme.
   I support car-sharing programmes (Medinge gave a Brands with a Conscience award to Flexcar last decade, so we were again ahead of the curve), and solar energy (I’ve already discussed ideas with Isolar and SolaRoof)—particularly trying to find a cost-effective way for homeowners to get into solar power.
   I even, dare I say it, believe light rail remains an option provided the cost is right, and there is evidence to suggest the negative experience in Edinburgh was an outlier.
   I believe we need to look at the long term, which is why I floated the idea of the long-haul airport being at Paraparaumu post-amalgamation, with a high-speed rail link to the CBD by 2040.
   Given that, some of the discussions we are having today about the spine and routes to the airport may remain moot.
   You can find more of my position with Generation Zero’s ideas here. I think I deserve a couple more thumbs-up than they have given me, mind!
   The environment, cycleways and pedestrianization were part of the thinking behind the market weekends that already appear in my manifesto, alongside celebrating our city and enjoying a festival atmosphere.

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Posted in cars, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 3 Comments »


Campaign update: videos three to five

22.08.2013

I have been posting these on the videos’ page as they became public, but maybe I should have added them to this blog, too, for those of you following on RSS. The multilingual one seems to have had a lot of hits. They have been directed by Isaac Cleland, with Khadeeja Dean on sound. Lawrance Simpson was DOP on the first one below.


This one was important to me, as I sent in a submission on the local alcohol policy, leaning more in favour of the hospitality industry’s submissions while acknowledging the need to reduce harm.
   Highlights from that submission: ‘The hours feel very limiting as the harm has not come from the opening hours of on-licensed venues, but from pre-loading. Most venues are responsible and safe based on my own custom. A blanket 7 a.m.–­5 a.m. with council officers using their discretion on venues failing to meet the highest standards, then restricting them back to 3 a.m. would be a better approach, while acknowledging the changes at the national level.’
   ‘I remain unsure whether harm will be decreased. I have listened to the police and hospital submissions, and I have great sympathy for them. However, if we know pre-loading and drinking education to be the greatest issues, restricting on-licence hours will not help. If it forces people to drink more at home rather than frequent the city, then that doesn’t actually decrease harm: it makes harm harder to police because it is shifted to the suburbs. It adds to the cost of health services because of travel time and the inability for those harmed to get immediate help.’
   ‘There are some good aspects in its response to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012—and it was right for Council to respond. The arguments on density and proximity are a good response to some residents’ concerns.’
   Finally: ‘My belief is that the root cause of a lot of our drinking culture comes from socioeconomic conditions and, especially with the young, a sense of disengagement and a pessimism about their futures. While it is not the purpose of the strategy, it is something that we must address as a city.’


Judging Miromoda for the fourth (I believe) time, this time at Pipitea Marae. It must have been the first time the te Reo portion of my address was longer than the English. I need to disclose that I am not fluent but I try to make a decent stab at it at every opportunity, for the obvious reason that it is the native language of this country.


Another beautifully shot and edited video from Isaac, this one has proved a bit of a hit on Facebook and has almost had as many views as my début 2013 campaign video that was released in April. I decided not to do Swedish—I can speak a little—and Taishanese, since they might be a bit too niche. The idea: if we need someone to push Wellington globally to help our businesses grow—and we accept that the innovative, high-tech and creative ones do—then doesn’t it make sense to not only elect someone with first-hand experience of those sectors, but can open doors readily, too, especially as the global economy shifts east?

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Posted in business, China, culture, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Being answerable to your public (or, if you can’t engage now, can we expect you to in office?)

22.08.2013

One of my supporters Tweeted to say I was the only candidate at Vote.co.nz who has bothered to reply to citizens’ questions. It’s good for me, but sad to see my opponents so disengaged. I was also surprised to see that only three of us have bothered to register for the website this time, despite its reasonably high traffic in each election.
   We each get notifications of these questions via email. I receive over 300 emails a day, which I gather is just slightly below what the current mayor gets. I take the questions seriously because they are often about things that I have failed to cover in my manifesto in sufficient depth. I don’t wish citizens to conclude that I haven’t given them a lot of thought, too, especially since I’ve had my manifesto out for such a long time—months before anyone else decided they had policies they could share.
   Here are a few for your interest.

Mr Vasquez asks:

What will you do to ensure a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful Wellington City?
   Recently, we saw on the news the appalling racial tirade against a Pakistani-born taxi driver. While everyone seemed to rebuke the actions of Mr Shuttleworth, I found that Ms Devoy’s response was weak and non-committal. This is the excerpt of her response that I found very disturbing: “Freedom of expression and freedom of speech allows us to be as offensive as we like without being able to do anything…” Really?? Are we now supposed to condone this type of behaviour and just shrug our shoulders? New Zealand law prohibits this type of behaviour as detailed in the Human Rights Act 1993. In the UK, Australia and US, ‘Hate speech’ is punishable by imprisonment.
   I would like to know what your views are on this issue, and how you yourself would have responded. Also, what can you offer to do as Mayor of Wellington to ensure we remain a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful society?

My reply: As probably the only candidate who has been a victim of racism in our own city, I would have been firmer, because I can speak from the heart about such matters more sincerely. I don’t consider intoxication to be an excuse and that Mr Shuttleworth needs to get to the root cause of just why he acted in this way. I believe the incident to have been inappropriate and would have said so, assuming I had been asked for comment. I did not condone, for instance, the Paul Henry attacks on Indians on television (and was public about it). Sadly, we are faced with a great deal of casual racism where minorities have to come forth and say, ‘Hey, I heard that, and I’m not thrilled by it.’ This can only change by people seeing more from different communities serve in public roles, and this is one of the many reasons I have chosen to stand.
   However, the decision to charge Mr Shuttleworth had to come from the police or, if it was a breach of the Human Rights Act, then from the Human Rights Commission, and I do not believe I would have interfered with their decision.
   One of my policies from day one, since I announced them in April, is to promote unity. A mayor has to live by example. This means engaging with all sectors of our community, regardless of class or ethnic origin, and giving everyone the equal opportunity to have a voice and to have access to me.

Marcus asks: ‘What will you do to make Wellington a more child friendly city?’
   My reply: When I said I would reach out to all sectors of our community, I meant children as well. Too often they are ignored because politicians don’t see value in non-voters. As for me, I’ve put my hand up because at some stage, I’d like to start a family here, and I’ve retained my connections with St Mark’s and Scots College, where I was educated, running the alumni association of the former and serving on the Old Boys’ Association of the latter.
   The best way to find out how a city can be more child-friendly is not to ask an adult, but to ask children. That means allowing them access to the mayor. I’ve actually been living this through social media over the last six years, where I have been able to hear from teens. As to even younger groups, I can foresee visiting schools—which I have done regularly as well.
   One of the reasons I’ve put so much effort into innovation and creativity is that I want our city’s youngest minds to have the right stimuli. At libraries and some public sites, I would love to see small workstations that can keep children entertained with educational programs, especially as they can be acquired for low cost and help alleviate the cuts in library funding.
   I’ve seen how the Shakespeare Globe Centre here in Wellington promotes theatre, again targeting youth (albeit a slightly older group), and our city should continue providing funding to such bodies that encourage creativity.
   We need to invest in physical education with the cuts to these programmes in a lot of schools. Wellington should have set activities that lead to the physical health of our youth and that means encouraging volunteers and allowing kids easy access to community and sport centres. These programmes can be child-created online, with parental supervision, so it’s kids creating for kids.
   Essentially, if we don’t hear from children today, then how can we claim to create a city for our future? We need them to know they are being listened to, so that they don’t have the same cynicism about local government that many of us adults possess. Treat children as valuable members of society and not talk down to them, and they will step up to the mark.

Peter asks: ‘What’s your position on fluoridation of water?’
   Peter, I support ongoing fluoridation. One of my friends has a son with a congenital heart defect, so fluoride helps him for a start, to avoid dental infections that can bring on myocarditis. A few of my friends are against fluoridation, and I admire their conviction, but I have to look at what the academic research says (especially as a candidate who says we need to work with our tertiary institutions more closely). Since I contribute to academic journals myself and am on the editorial board of one, I know the processes, and I take peer review seriously.

Claire asks: ‘What’s your position on cycling as a mode of transport in Wellington, and how would you support (or not) an increase in the number of people riding for transport and the safety of the mode?’
   Thanks to my work overseas, especially in København and Stockholm, I support cycling, for the obvious health and environmental benefits. One of my policies in both elections was the idea of a market weekend, where we close off the central city to traffic in the summer, apeing what we do for the movie premières. This would allow people to enjoy Wellington in a friendly, enjoyable environment. Cyclists would be encouraged. Longer-term, this would allow us to see how we could manage greater pedestrianization for our city, in line with what is happening in western Europe, and such a setting would encourage cycling as a more acceptable mode of transport.
   Safety has to come about through road-use education and I accept it is hairy for cyclists out there. Putting money into driver education, and working with the police to target difficult motorists, would be on the agenda. In theory, I would like to get eDrive involved, too, as an excellent virtual reality simulator to help with driver observation, but as it is a company that I have an involvement with, I would have to recuse myself from taking part in that decision.

Patrick asks: ‘What are your policies on climate change?’
   I applaud the city for establishing a target for a low-carbon, eco-conscious future but we need to move toward it actively. In 2003, I began working with the United Nations Environment Programme on one of our businesses, and the same year, I was one of the authors of an early Carbon Neutral business book, Beyond Branding (back when people were asking, ‘What is carbon-neutral and why should I care?’). My policy of working with the C40 is to share best-practice ideas on managing climate change, while my policy on transparency covers our need to disclose, manage and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. That way we know which areas need addressing, and set an example. By having greater engagement—something I have been doing anyway in my businesses—we will share this knowledge with others in the city, and encourage all Wellingtonians, especially businesses, to adopt these best practices. Solar energy is also another area in which I want to make real advances, and I am already working with businesses to see what solutions can be cost-effectively promoted to Wellingtonians, beyond what current energy providers can do. I believe, due to the limited size of the industry at present, there is huge growth potential here, which will be good for the environment as well as jobs—I’m already excited about what new innovations will stem from Wellington-created solutions that we can license to others and export.

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Posted in business, globalization, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


The statistics back up my manifesto: we need to help young Wellingtonians

06.07.2013

One of the things I hear when campaigning is that one should not focus too much on youth, because young people do not vote as much. I think the first part of that is bollocks.
   While it’s true that the youth vote has never been strong, no one can claim to represent a city without getting a sense of where young people are at. They have the most to lose if political leaders mess things up. And being the youngest candidate (at 40), I have the most to lose among those running—because I’ll want to keep living in Wellington and I want to make sure everything’s right the next generation.
   It’s why my manifesto contained policies for younger Wellingtonians as well as other groups. You can’t shun one for another. Published in April, I allowed people to give me feedback on it, to discuss and enhance the policies in there. While I technically authored it, it’s really one that you’ve written—through my interacting with you in person and on the social networks for the past six or more years.
   And it’s lucky I did. One of the policies, about providing internship programmes, was one that came out of my own experience with them at my company. Dozens have come through Jack Yan & Associates and Lucire. Many continue to live in Wellington and establish careers here, and become ratepayers or, in some cases, business owners. Some go off on their OEs but come back here. When Mayor Dave Cull of Dunedin told me about the DCC’s one, I thought: it is doable within a city’s budget. It can help with companies’ recruitment, encourage young people to stay in the city, equip them with skills, and show them that the industries they want to work in have a future that includes them. Of course, we would need to look at the ROI more closely, but there are few down sides from helping younger Wellingtonians starting out in their adult lives.
   Of course we’ll need to get the other parts of the economy right, too, which my manifesto addresses.
   Six weeks after my manifesto was released, this has become vital, with statistics showing that unemployment for 15- to 19-year-olds is 25 per cent. That’s what the aggregate figure of 7·5 per cent across Wellington hides. When you look at pre-loading and the other issues relating to alcohol policy, it’s not impossible to see a connection: there’s a sense of hopelessness for some of our young people, that we have to get right.
   As I said time and time again: it cannot be politics as usual.
   If the creative sector is one where we can have high-value jobs, then maybe we need to elect someone from that very sector with a history of entrepreneurship.
   In April, I noted, under the section on ‘Uniting Wellingtonians’:

There have been relatively few programmes to help younger Wellingtonians. Probably because politicians don’t see them as big voters. It shouldn’t matter: mayoral policies should look to future voters because the brain drain to Auckland, Australia, and the UK is doing us little good.
   Not only will I advocate internship and apprenticeship programmes such as Media Lab, which will see young people placed with our tech and creative firms with the city supporting the venture. It will be a priority for the programme to meet a high conversion rate to real jobs—something I have practised in my own firm.
   Young people should rightly participate in our city’s decisions, because they have more to lose if we mess things up. That means opening the city up to greater participation online and encouraging input from them in every area, from the arts to commerce, including a city branding campaign where they can have their say over Wellington’s direction.
   In 2010, I was the most connected candidate, and I promise to remain accessible through major social networks in this one, and after getting office.
   I believe some minor crimes such as tagging stem from a sense of hopelessness, something that should not be happening in a first-world country. By giving youth a say, we can reverse their pessimism and let them know that the system is working for their futures.

   I know: of that group, only 40 per cent can vote. But as we are voting for the future of our city, then we need to consider those who are going to be affected for the long term.
   As the only Wellington-bred candidate who did all his schooling here, I know that we ignore younger Wellingtonians’ demands and participation in our society at our peril.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Cities are, or at least should be, driving globalization

06.06.2013

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 nations—a 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 populationWellingtonians felt pretty strongly when PM John Key made his comment that our city was ‘dying’—but 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, however—they 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 London’s and Toronto’s stock exchanges, and similar discussions between Sydney and Singapore, Chicago and Sao Paulo, Dubai and Mumbai or the Shenzhen–Hong Kong–Shanghai 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 one—in Wellington’s case, tourism—to 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?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, globalization, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Staying a step ahead: the economic benefit of gimmicks

05.06.2013


Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington life—but 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 wasn’t 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.
   I’m 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 librarians’ 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.
   It’s going to take rebuilding our business sector—which forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to date—to at least get our economy moving and our rates’ 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 instance—it’s technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
   We’ve 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 “open for business” 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. It’s still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. I’ve 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 won’t 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 America’s Cup race—once gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, it’s 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 “gimmicks” is very serious indeed.

As always, feedback and dialogue are welcome, either via this blog, my campaign Facebook group, or my Facebook page.

PS.: Here’s a prime example from Bangor, Maine of how these data can help the public, which Hamish McConnochie shared with me.—JY

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Park: wise

27.05.2013

Earlier today, the following press release was issued by my campaign team. And so far, judging by comments on my personal Facebook and my mayoral campaign page, the mood seems to be in favour of a park at Cuba Street. I realize other policies won’t be as cut-and-dry, and discussion remains very welcome (as evidenced on my Facebook campaign page).

Mayoral candidate Jack Yan calls for new Cuba Street park

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 2012–22 long-term plan budgets for NZ$3·2 million to be spent on new inner-city park space and Mr Yan proposes that the money be spent on Cuba Street.
   ‘Ideally, I would like to see Council invest in a new park on the present Wilson car park next to Swan Lane on Cuba Street.
   ‘The 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.
   ‘A 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.
   ‘It’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.’

Summary
• 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.
• WCC has already budgeted NZ$3·2 million for a new park
• Mr Yan believes construction of a park on Cuba Street will help reverse the trend on Cuba Street of businesses moving elsewhere.
• WCC’s capital value for the site is NZ$1¼ million

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In Wellington, the players need to change

23.05.2013

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 op–ed, then to The Wellingtonian, but it was eventually declined.

The Dominion Post’s 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 Wellington’s 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 government’s support for any projects—even the Mayor’s light-rail programme—then 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 sector—and 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 one’s 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, it’s not a bad sector to start with. It just shouldn’t 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 “growth for growth’s sake”. 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, it’s putting 26 years’ 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 government’s focus. Wellington’s businesses have gone under the radar for too long, and they need an ally who can balance their needs while ensuring citizens’ 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.

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