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Viv Beck: Auckland's shopping list for level one-derful

Thursday 8 Oct 2020

Op-Ed published in the New Zealand Herald on 8 October 2020

On your marks, get set, go.

Spring is in the air as Auckland heads back into alert level one. A time of optimism and renewal. A time to show Aucklanders and Kiwis from around the country a good time in the heart of Auckland city.

A time to dream about working in pitch-perfect step with the incoming government and Auckland Council to fast track recovery in a city with so much potential.

It can't come soon enough for many city-centre businesses slam-dunked by Covid-19,
construction and working from home.

Here is my wish list for the coming months:

Domestic visitors will love new attractions such as Spark's 5G Race Zone, open from now to America's Cup, and the All Blacks Experience and Weta Workshop Unleashed, both opening in December.

They will enjoy staying at beautiful hotels, travelling with their taste buds, shopping in unique stores, concerts, events and our new waterfront. Just imagine, miles of orange cones are about to disappear into cone heaven, far away from the city centre.

Ahi restaurant, Commercial Bay, looking out to the harbour. Image: Supplied.

Our border will be safe as houses and there will be enough capacity to let in the people we need to create economic and social benefit – international students, specialist skills, events that draw people to Auckland and tourists from safe places.

Government and council staff will return to work in droves to support the recovery. The benefits of city life are still there and the investment in public transport, public spaces, hotels, retail and office space, will revive with more people back to use them.

Big business will help out the small ones that have set up to serve them and come back to work too. Their people will thrive with stimulating company and amenities close by, even if they do work more flexibly in future. Students will be happy to be back learning face to face with their friends and bring vibrancy with them.

Auckland Council will ensure the city centre is inviting and easy to access, always respecting the needs of the people who pay the money for the works they do. Transport incentives will be gratefully received. Queen St will be admired, function well and attract lots of people without sticks, stones and broken bones.

People walking in front of the Dior store in Queen Street, Auckland's city centre Image: Sacha Stejko

Property owners will be appreciated for the investment they bring to the city. They will work in harmony with Auckland Council to get things done efficiently and the magical combination of public and private money will keep laying the foundations of our future city.

Council will plan impeccably and have new funding options in time for its long-term plan in 2021.

Growth businesses like high-tech will love our state-of-the-art office space located in vibrant places. Vacant spaces will be filled creatively – from pop-ups and art, to more people joining the growing number of people living in the city centre.

Rough sleepers will no longer need to sleep rough. Permanent solutions will be found to
carry on from the temporary Covid-19 ones along with work experience (like Heart of the City's Street Guardians programme, delivered with Auckland City Mission) and places to go during the day.

The welfare of business owners will be paramount. They have coped amazingly well over the last six months, making changes to their offerings and adapting to alert levels at short notice. But no matter how good you are at running a business, how long can anyone last with few customers and ongoing costs to pay?

The most impacted sectors are adapting to a different future but some businesses need a helping hand to survive and a creative, affordable solution is needed. AUT's Dr Richard Meade proposed a student loan scheme idea early in the Covid era that was not taken up, but we can't ignore this ongoing issue. Similarly, more support is needed for businesses paying an intolerable toll for progress with years of obstruction outside their doors from construction of the City Rail Link.

In summary, the return to level 1 for a second time in Auckland can be viewed with optimism and confidence that we can pick up where we left off on August 11. The city centre continues to transform with a diverse offering and our new waterfront will be fabulous in the lead-up to America's Cup. A coordinated and action-oriented approach with central and local government will be more than a wish list to help businesses get on and do what they do best.

We look forward to welcoming you soon.