Auckland, the underrated jewel of APEC

Sydney may have the harbour views and Melbourne the lifestyle but new research shows Auckland is the APEC city with both - and more.

The New Zealand city has emerged at number six overall in PwC's Building Better Cities survey which looks at 28 cities in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region.

" Auckland ranks higher overall than Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing."
David Walker, Director at PwC

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The study focussed on the role urban centres play in the context of APEC's economic and social growth with cities, rather than nations, competing for an increasingly mobile and global labour force.

Auckland ranks higher than its Australian neighbour Melbourne (at eighth), driven by its top ranking in six out of 39 variables.

Variables were grouped into five indicators: culture and society, connectivity, health and welfare, environmental sustainability and economics. Melbourne was a strong performer but only ranked highest in two out of 39 variables, contributing to its lower overall ranking relative to Auckland.

In addition, average performance in the culture and social health indicator and environmental sustainability indicator meant Auckland ranked higher overall than Hong Kong (11th), Shanghai (13th) and Beijing (14th).

Coming in as the top-four ranked cities overall were Toronto, Vancouver, the city-state Singapore and mega-city Tokyo. Cities need to build up their 'brand' and these four are globally identifiable and perform well over a range of indicators, with no major weakness.

All four cities ranked highest in one indicator, suggesting these cities have strong, recognisable features which they are renowned for, in addition to their broad base.

In contrast, although Hong Kong ranked highest in the economics indicator and second in transport and global connectivity, the city suffered through its performance in environmental sustainability, culture and social health, and health and welfare.

The 11th placing of Hong Kong suggests that cities need to play to their strengths, and work towards ensuring that their weaknesses are not fatal flaws. 


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Source: PwC 2015 APEC Building Better Cities

In Auckland's situation, its performance in transport and global connectivity hindered growth and, ultimately, overall city performance.

The city's planned overhaul of its mass-transit network with a strong emphasis on multi-modal transport including roads, rail, trams, buses, bikes, ferries will help improve connectivity for Auckland and make it an even better place to live and do business.

International connectivity is also a major factor in a city's overall competitiveness and liveability. Accordingly, investment in airport infrastructure and ICT technology is important.

Relationship connectivity should also be considered and one of the findings of our report was that there were few formal mechanisms connecting APEC cities.

One of the newest developments in this space has been the conclusion of the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement (FTA). The agreement will open and diversify trade and investment relationships between TPP member parties, which are shown in the below table.

The TPP provides a platform for regional economic integration in an increasingly important part of the global economy: TPP member economies currently make up 36 per cent of world GDP.


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Source: APEC, MFAT

This raises an important question around how well cities are placed to leverage international trade agreements and treaties.

The benefits of FTAs can be significant and the multi-national TPP will reduce barriers to trade and investment, support growing regional supply chains and economies in the Asia Pacific region and complement New Zealand's existing free trade agreements, such as the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement.

Asia Pacific governments are also looking at implementing local solutions such as the introduction of special economic zones to boost inward investment and regional economies.

Parallel alignment of cities through sister city relationships and associated international city agreements has the potential to further realise the benefits of international trade agreements for businesses.

It's clear that a coordinated response by urban and national governments is needed to tackle tenacious and complex problems which pose threats to growing competitive, liveable, sustainable cities for people and businesses to thrive in.

Collaboration from both national and local government, as well as city-to-city collaboration will be the key.


David Walker is a partner at PwC

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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