Auckland: Indeed a Tale of Two Cities

Two Cities that Complement Each Other


Is Auckland a tale of two Cities? I would argue yes and Professor Greg Clark who is a global cities expert would also agree.

But does it mean with having two Cities that they should be at war with each other? Of course not but both “cities” do need to recognise their interdependence of each other and that both evolve just as an organism would as well.


You can read Professor Greg Clark’s full interview on Auckland being two Cities here: Auckland: a tale of two cities

This excerpt though was quite interesting:

Auckland: a tale of two cities

Published: 25 January 2016


There’s a lot of debate in Auckland about whether to grow ‘up’ through intensification or ‘out’ into greenfields areas.

I see this as a tale of two cities. For many years Auckland provided the people who live here with a unique opportunity. You’ve been able to live in a largely suburban city with incredible environmental amenities. People have been able to enjoy a suburban lifestyle, come into the city to work and dash out again.

But this model is not on its own sustainable.

In the past 10 years, too many larger firms, jobs and talented people have migrated to London, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Singapore, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, because Auckland lacked the scale and the vitality to house successful business clusters. In order for Auckland to be sustainable, you need to be able to capture more of that corporate and innovation economy and more of the talent that goes with it. 

The new proposition is that Auckland essentially becomes two complementary cities that work in partnership with each other.

There’s the charming suburban city with private homes and gardens and access to water, beaches, and hills. People still have the opportunity to live in these suburbs and commute in and out like they used to. It will become much more attractive to do this by public transport and bike, rather than by private car, and that will add to the city’s convenience.

But also emerging is a second Auckland. One where people live in the city centre with a growing range of metropolitan amenities and jobs. These people walk to work, patronise local shops and cafes, and share space with cultural amenities, innovative small businesses and funky venues.

The city centre and waterfront is becoming a place where people rub shoulders with each other and accidental encounters become opportunities. Where there’s a rich mix of different kinds of people doing a wide range of things, and underpinning a huge range of amenities with taxes and increased disposable income.

If you can increase the number of people living in the centre of the city, it allows the city to grow without much congestion and creates wonderful amenities and urban buzz that everyone can benefit from.

The suburban city and the cosmopolitan city centre offer things that are distinctive and complementary.

So suburbanites can keep their quarter-acre sections?

Yes, absolutely. The long-term sustainability of the quality of life in the suburbs actually depends upon the emergence of a strong city centre community that underpins the scale and the job opportunities in Auckland.

Planned and managed growth in the city centre will protect the suburbs from the unplanned growth that some of them don’t want to have.

Having that vibrant city centre also enriches the choices of the people who live in the suburbs. These ‘two Aucklands’, with their different liveability and quality of life equations, can and should coexist, and they do coexist in every other really successful city in the world.

What can residents do to help make Auckland the world’s most liveable city?

Citizens should recognise these two different Aucklands and encourage both to evolve.




So Auckland works in a plural but complementary fashion with its primary urban core (the City Centre) and it suburban fabric beyond the urban core itself. If this is going to be the case of Auckland being two Cities then our planning regimes are going to need to match.


Already Auckland runs two de-facto Cities in that you have the City Centre and the inner suburbs and South Auckland with Manukau acting as its City Centre or urban core. So retrofitting that notion of two Cities to Professor Clark’s notion of two Cities would be an interesting exercise to do. As I would see it, it would be something a bit like this:

  • The main City Centre with the Isthmus, West Auckland and North Auckland as its suburban counterpart
  • Manukau City Centre as the (minor) urban core with Southern Auckland acting as its suburban counterpart


I have resumed reading Suburban Urbanites again but I will leave you with these points I have picked up on so far:


Your thoughts?





One thought on “Auckland: Indeed a Tale of Two Cities

  1. Ben, this would be interesting if ‘Professor’ Greg Clark told us anything that we don’t yet know. Of course Akl has had for quite a while – and will continue having for a while – two faces, one urban, the other suburban. Does it take a ‘global cities expert’ to explain to us – via some ‘tale’, in case we are a bit slow – what we see every day with our own eyes?
    And what is so special about this? Like other Western cities (if not all cities) do not have this contrast between the denser city core and the more flat suburbs, and the two mentalities between the residents of the two ? What a mastery of spinning a tale out of something trivial, passing for ‘expertise’!
    The problem is not that the City and the Suburbs are at war; the problem is that the City is trying the ram down the Suburbs’ throats an aggressive, untested, risky model of concentration and intensification on a colossal scale! 300,000 new dwelling units (70% of all future growth) over the next 20 years or so. This can happen only at an enormous emotional, economic and ecological cost, and in an authoritarian way. But not only is this un-democratic, this is also irresponsible. As the world enters the era of various of crises and challenges triggered by the accelerating process of global climate change, it is really dumb to concentrate 3 million people on a narrow, volcanic isthmus, exposed to a raft of old and new hazards.
    Please spare us Greg Clark’s ideas who to shape a city in the 21st century. All GK and his ilk can think of is economic growth, constant growth, on an unlimited planet. Their use of the word ‘sustainable’ is abuse of language. GK represents exactly the class of thinkers who have brought us into this big crisis and it is a shame that Akl Council has been asking for his advice for years now.

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