This week, Auckland Unlimited – Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s new economic and cultural agency – takes its first steps. 

Building on the work of our founding organisations – the two Council Controlled Organisations Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), and Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) – our new purpose is very clear: 

To enrich cultural and economic life in Tāmaki Makaurau by creating and sharing experiences and opportunities.

RFA and ATEED have continued to deliver impressive work for Auckland in the face of uncertainty, lockdowns, event cancellations, and industries severely disrupted or halted by border closures. At the same time, both legacy organisations supported and made positive contributions to the CCO Review process that started late last year.

Since the decision to bring both organisations together was made in late August this year, when the Governing Body accepted the review panel’s merger recommendation, we have moved at pace. Now, after officially launching on 1 December, we are firmly focusing on the task at hand – making our region a desirable place to live, work, visit, invest and do business. 

Following the shock of COVID-19, Auckland’s success will rely on our ability to help our region transition from crisis-recovery mode to being future opportunity focused. The breadth and depth of Auckland Unlimited will be a key catalyst for Auckland’s recovery. 

Auckland Unlimited lays a strong foundation for Auckland’s economic and cultural development. We deliver a co-ordinated, region-wide programme to maximise cultural, social and economic benefits for Auckland residents and visitors. 

While we are a young organisation, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us through a decade of RFA and ATEED delivering for Auckland. We will continue this work, developing a coordinated region-wide programme that delivers value to all Aucklanders. 

Auckland Unlimited’s work is wide ranging. We are New Zealand’s largest provider of cultural heritage, performing arts and sports events; we fuel a billion-dollar screen production industry in Auckland; we manage $1.5 billion of Auckland’s cultural heritage, sporting and performing arts assets, including stadia, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Auckland Zoo, and New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa.

We develop Auckland’s innovation ecosystem, support Auckland’s small to medium businesses – of which there are nearly two hundred thousand – and attract hundreds of millions in investment to our region every year.

We deliver a world-class major events and exhibitions portfolio; our diverse conservation and arts programmes reach every school child in Auckland, and we operate some of the region’s most-loved cultural amenities.

There is still more work to do as we bed down the new organisation. We firmly believe though that the combined resources and assets of our legacy organisations gives us greater leverage to help unlock opportunities that focus on what is best for Auckland.

We will continue our legacy organisations’ principles of partnership across the Council family, with central government, with mana whenua, and with the private sector. We will support the economic and cultural aspirations of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s mana whenua and mataawaka, individually and collectively, on areas of shared interest.

We are also uniquely positioned to showcase sustainability and climate action leadership to a large and diverse group of Aucklanders, and to play our part in supporting the city’s move to a more sustainable, climate proof future.

The work we undertake in the next year – with a focus on a vibrant 2021 underpinned by the 36th America’s Cup for which Auckland Unlimited is the lead Auckland Council agency, and planning for the future – will have long-term impacts on the future prosperity and cultural richness of our region and its people.

To succeed in the face of a world disrupted by COVID-19, Auckland will need bold economic and cultural development decisions. We will need to make bold decisions that are relevant to the new world we live in, and we won’t be afraid to do that. 

As an organisation, we will seize the opportunity. The people of Auckland need that from us – and we are energised as one by the task ahead.  

As submitted to the New Zealand Herald (published 7 December 2020)