Lucy wears a COS jacket, vintage dress, and a brooch from Bolivia. Photo / Babiche Martens

Meet The Five Change Makers Shaping Auckland Now

Auckland is a dynamic city experiencing much change and growth. Inspired by the Cos city guide, these five inspiring locals share their vision for its future

The central city of Tāmaki Makaurau is at the nexus of change - from promises of the future like the city rail link, to the dramatically changed social landscape post-covid. Auckland is under the spotlight this year, with everyone from international media to global brands like COS highlighting our city and what we're doing well. 

Things are happening; there are bold new builds, old buildings clinging on and finding a new lease on life and – most importantly – conversations around how to make the city good for everyone. Our hometown has been on our minds lately, so we spoke to five Aucklanders working in different fields that shape city to weigh in.  

DR SAROSH MULLA

Pac Studio director, OH.NO.SUMO founder, University of Auckland senior lecturer

Sarosh wears a COS jacket, AS Colour T-shirt and jeans. Photo / Babiche Martens

Can you tell our readers about who you are and what you do?

I’m a designer, artist, and educator, with a background in architectural and spatial design. I’m a director of Pac Studio, a research-led design studio focussed on high-quality residential architecture of all scales, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, School of Architecture and Planning. I’m also involved in several artistic collaborations with a wide group of creative people.

How have you been involved in shaping Tāmaki  Makaurau?

We’ve been involved in a wide range of projects from housing and strategy to art-based projects. Recently I completed a large-scale public artwork for the central city, Rainbow Machine, with Patrick Loo and Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh. It’s an immersive artwork that creates rainbows and travels around the city bringing a little bit of wonder and joy.

What led you to your chosen field?

I’ve always enjoyed creative problem solving and the collaborative nature of working on unusual projects with interesting people. I also love the balance of creating architecture, art, and teaching. Doing all three concurrently means I’m always being creatively challenged.

What is the most special thing about our city?

I always come back to Auckland’s wonderful topography. Stretching across a unique volcanic field that embodies a physical and cultural history of the city, Auckland is unlike any other place I have ever lived. I feel really lucky to live here.

What is your favourite place in the city centre?

My favourite place currently is the new home of Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Rd. We had the privilege to design their new space and help them take the next step in supporting the creative community. The new gallery is wonderful and will allow them to expand their programme. It’s always wonderful working with creative and committed clients like this and I love visiting these spaces around the city.

What factors are shaping Tāmaki Makaurau today?

Auckland is a complex city with many competing needs and our council reflects that. I believe that we need more bravery in those leadership roles so that short-term views don’t overpower long-term strategic changes in the city.

What are the challenges facing inner Auckland?

Auckland has many tough challenges ahead. The impact of Covid-19, a sustained housing crisis, and increasing pressure on public institutions are things that we’ll all have to work together to resolve in the coming decades. But the singular thing that I think the city needs more than anything, is to resolve its long-standing public transport issues with transformational investment in this area.

Increasing the affordability of public mobility will help to drive the economy beyond the singular investment in building infrastructure, and will help to mitigate many of the issues Aucklanders really struggle with currently. I’m looking forward to seeing some action in this area after the election.

What’s your vision for Auckland?

I would like to see Auckland as the most equitable and diverse city in the world, where we value our environment and our collective experience of the city. This is a great place to live, but there is work to be done to achieve that aim.

What conversations should Aucklanders have now?

The conversation around how central and local government can work together better is incredibly important, particularly now as the city looks ahead to an uncertain future. But we should also be thinking locally about how we can make Auckland a vibrant and enjoyable place to live for everyone.

What conversations do you think Aucklanders should be having now?

I think a conversation around how central and local government can work together better is incredibly important and particularly now as the city looks ahead to an uncertain future. But we should also be thinking locally about how we can make Auckland a vibrant and enjoyable place to live for everyone.

SCOTT PRITCHARD

CEO Precinct Properties & Commercial Bay co-owner

Scott wears a Working Style jacket and shirt, Barkers pants. Photo / Babiche Martens

Can you tell our readers about who you are and what you do?

I’m the chief executive at Precinct Properties. I have the privilege of leading the Precinct business working with some New Zealand’s most amazing property, flex-space, and hospitality people.

How have you been involved in shaping Tāmaki  Makaurau?

Precinct owns and manages around 30,000 sqm of land with property valued at $2.5 billion in the Auckland city centre - including Wynyard Quarter and the recently completed Commercial Bay retail, hospitality and commercial precinct. In terms of shaping Tāmaki Makaurau, I think Commercial Bay has had a significant impact on reshaping the city’s waterfront and the skyline.

The Waitemata is arguably our city’s best asset, and the recent public and private investment is really harnessing that. Commercial Bay now re-connects the east-west axis along the waterfront, linking Britomart through to the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter.

We know the retail and hospitality on offer is also bringing people into the city to shop and dine. Commercial Bay has over 70 local and international fashion retailers which alongside Britomart and Queen Street really cements the city centre as a fashion and shopping destination.

What led you to your chosen field?

I was fortunate enough to be working at Auckland Airport when they were starting to develop some of their landholdings around the airport. Property is so much more than just a building – the potential to engage and inspire people and shape the way they behave is fascinating.

I’ve loved watching people simply stand in Commercial Bay admiring the space – the architects and all of our retailers have really created something that is truly world-class.

What is the most unique thing about Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland?

If you visit any gateway city in the world, I think you’d struggle to find a better connection between our city centre and the waterfront. Once Quay Street and Lower Queen Street works have been completed by council the pedestrian access to this area will be incredible.

It’s also a pretty incredible experience to be able to have a drink and something to eat in one of our hospitality venues overlooking the water. In fact, you can do this at Commercial Bay and choose any one of about seven different venues which all give a pretty cool perspective of the Waitemata!

What factors are shaping Tāmaki Makaurau today — what should be?

Auckland continues to experience huge growth in its resident population with a range of people choosing to live in the city centre. Naturally, those that live in the city use the city differently to those that don’t. As an example, we’re seeing an increase in the night time economy, particularly mid-week dining.

Although the number of city centre residents is increasing, there is capacity for up to four times the amount of Aucklanders to live within the city centre. This makes a lot more sense for a number of reasons; it reduces the urban sprawl that Auckland is currently experiencing - which is an incredibly expensive form of development. It makes more sense to build more housing in our city centre, leveraging off existing infrastructure and making the city centre even more vibrant.

What are the challenges facing central Auckland’s development? 

At the moment it has to be transport infrastructure and the difficulty Aucklanders experience in simply getting into the city. We need to get to a point where you can get to the city centre from anywhere in Auckland in less than 30 minutes.

If we can unlock the accessibility from the suburbs into the city, we can unlock a level of productivity that many other cities haven’t been able to achieve. Council and Government are working towards having smarter transport infrastructure options which will overcome these issues and better connect the city.

What’s your vision for inner Auckland?

An Auckland city that encourages locals and visitors to come into the city for a range of different events and experiences. A pedestrian-friendly waterfront where visitors can seamlessly move between shared spaces, civic and public. A city centre where the urban design is experience-based centred around the stunning Waitemata Harbour. Ultimately a city which all Aucklanders are very proud of and want to show off to their visiting friends.

What else can we be doing to unlock the potential of the city centre?

The improvements to our transport infrastructure and civic spaces are great. However, Auckland is already outgrowing these developments – particularly from a transport perspective. As a city we contribute close to 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP and Central Government have a role in continually investing in Auckland as New Zealand’s largest gateway city. 

LUCY TUKUA

Kaihautu (navigator) cultural design and founder of NativeByNature. Lucy possesses a long and active whakapapa (genealogical) tie and commitment to Tāmaki Makaurau, supporting all peoples to be in relationship with her waters, lands and indigeneity to diffuse 'I'dentity and uplift 'WE'dentity in a dynamic and regenerative hononga (coming together). 

Lucy wears a COS jacket, vintage dress, and a brooch from Bolivia. Photo / Babiche Martens

Can you tell our readers about who you are and what you do?

I am a child of Tāmaki born and raised in Papakura and have a deep ancestral connection to Tāmaki through my Iwi, Ngati Paoa and Ngāti Whanaunga. My consultancy NativebyNature is a labour of love serving whanau, hapu, Mana Whenua in the preservation, protection and promotion of whenua, moana and Māori.

I apply my craft across a number of disciplines such as design and environmental work as a navigator, to respectfully bring a culturally co-designed and regenerative approach in a mana enhancing way. I possess no formal qualifications, no alphabet soup after my name and my credentials are the calluses on my hands and the bags under my eyes.

How have you been involved in shaping Tāmaki Makaurau?

I am humbled to be involved in many influential projects. I have seen the maturity of Aucklanders refer to their city today as Tamaki Makaurau. It’s important that we return to our source and continue to educate the hundreds of lovers of Tāmaki (now 1.7 million). 

My work has been supporting the way in which we educate ourselves and bring forward those ancient stories, names and events in respectful and meaningful ways.

As a member of the Auckland Council’s urban design panel I have seen my fair share of “brown additives” without mana and without respect. This is starting to change, as consciousness rises. The City Rail Link has been a significant example of enabling those stories of place to evolve in a deeply place-sourced way, strongly partnered with Mana Whenua.

What led you to your chosen field?

My aunty called me one day to meet her at a hui at Papakura Marae in 2003 and I ended up on the Papakura District Council’s Māori Standing Committee. I secured their first Kaitakawaenga (Māori Relationships) role, which laid the foundation for my extensive involvement in local government, with Mana Whenua and Māori.

The Council also established the first national Māori Outcomes Framework - present now across the country - defining the way in which Māori are empowered. I am fortunate to have trained alongside my many mentors, mainly strong māori women, who have guided and prodded me to be the best that I can be, honoring my deep connection to Papatuanuku and the importance of rematriation in these troubled and testing times.

What factors are shaping Tāmaki Makaurau today - what should be?

In a Covid world, there is nothing more profound than the necessity to pause. In many ways this has been impactful and in particular, doing more with less. Less time, fewer resources but a whole lot more creativity.

My deep involvement with local and international placemaking practitioners calls for the emergence of a more place-sourced, culture-led and community-fed approach and an understanding from an indigenous perspective that we don’t make place, place makes us. So, my question is how do we uphold the stories, themes and narratives of this place to enable us all to live with a deeper sense of knowing and connection that we can all pass down?

What, in your opinion, is the most unique thing about Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland?

At a student hui in 2001, the gestation of a professional body to represent the aspirations of Maori design professionals was held. Nga Aho (Māori Creatives) was formalised as an entity in 2005/6, in response to the Ministry for the Environment’s Urban Design Protocol which failed to meaningfully engage with Māori aspirations and interests in the built environment.

Similarly to the establishment of Māori outcomes, it was an empowering and transformational shift of action and thinking. The Te Aranga Design principles have paved the way in Tāmaki to bring a more deepened sense of place and understanding of culture to enable Mana Whenua to ‘see our faces in our places’ and to share our stories. Our CBD could be anywhere in the world - mahi like these principles helps guide us to a future where we know where and who we are.

What is your favourite place in the city centre?

The place where I find most inspiration is beside Te Waitemata on the waterfront, a place where I draw my energy and spiritual essence - particularly where the ancient waters of Te Horotiu flow from under Queen St to meet Te Waitemata. I acknowledge Precinct Properties for the foresight to allow the telling of our stories through artistic expression, sculpture and waiata at Commercial Bay and look forward to that being unveiled in the near future.

Watch this space.

What are the challenges facing central Auckland’s development and how can these be overcome?

I sense that growing pains and stretch marks (personification pun intended) are tearing at the grain of Tāmaki. Having been involved with the Wynyard Quarter redevelopment and now seeing the manifestation of that work it is important that there is a good balance between how we work, live and play and that we do this in harmony with our environment because there is a co-dependence.

The health and wellbeing of place reflects the health and wellbeing of its people.

What’s your vision for the inner city?

My vision of Tamaki Makaurau sees a regenerative and sustainable future that continues to uphold an indigenous world view that we are Tamaki and Tamaki is us.

That we support developments done with us and not without us, done beautifully with a functional, thriving city in mind. A Tamaki where our tamariki and mokopuna are safe, our environments are accessible and connected, and our urban ngahere and waterways are teaming life.

SARAH SMUTS-KENNEDY & LEVI BRINSDON-HALL

For the Love of Bees vision-holder, artist, nominee for Sustainable Business Awards; OMG Organic Market Garden head farmer and project manager, artist, teacher

Sarah wears vintage Comme des Garçons shirt, vintage Zambesi top and pants. Levi wears COS jacket, Uniqlo shirt.

Can you tell our readers about who you are and what you do?

Sarah: I am an artist, a biodynamic gardener and vision holder of For the Love of Bees, the Urban Farmers Alliance which mentors and connects over 130 urban growers and composters around NZ, and Regenerate Now FTLOB educational arm. OMG is FTLOB regenerative organic market garden in Symonds Street. I am interested in developing systems that support the wairua of life.

This can look like a series of drawings and sculptures, a garden, or a social sculptural intervention like FTLOB. Most of my research is done at my own 10 acre site and studio 45 minutes north of Auckland called Maungakereru.

Levi: I am a 28 years young grower, artist and teacher. I work with plants, people and the land to inspire and model new possibilities for urban food production, community resilience and local regenerative economies. I am the head farmer and project manager of OMG – Organic Market Garden, a highly productive and profitable urban farm located at 257 Symonds Street, Uptown, Auckland.

OMG is the lead project of For the Love of Bees and I work alongside a team of visionary people to push local, urban regenerative farming models into every corner of the city and beyond. 

How have you been involved in shaping Tāmaki Makaurau?

Sarah: As the vision-holder of FTLOB my role has been to encourage and enable people to co-create a city that’s safe for bees, microbes and humans using organic regenerative practices. Firstly, this has involved helping them to imagine how we can accomplish this task together.

Secondly, it has been about creating spaces where they can visit, get inspired, learn and practice new skill sets they can take away with them to begin their own projects. The horticultural practices we demonstrate and teach have been proven to fast-track climate change mitigation, food security, biodiversity wellbeing, organic waste recovery and the generation of jobs for people in our cities. 

FTLOB celebrates individuals and organisations who are a stand for the regeneration of local eco-economies and as such we act as glue between multiple stakeholders helping them start their organic regenerative journey.

Projects we have facilitated in Tāmaki  Makaurau since 2016 include OMG Organic Market Garden on Symonds Street, Griffith Gardens in Wellesley Street (now becoming a CRL station), Compost Hubs in the Waitemata including OMG, Highwic and the Viaduct.

Pollinator sanctuaries at Highwic and Mairangi Bay Art Centre, bee hives in parks including Victoria Park, Myers Park and Highwic. Our free beekeeping school in Victoria Park every first Sunday of the month and overseeing the Daldy Street Community Garden in Wynyard Quarter.

Levi: Over the past 12 months alone OMG has produced over 1500 diverse vegetable boxes totalling over 3 tonnes fresh produce, all on 1/10th of an acre. These vege-boxes were all presold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme to local people that live or work within a 1-2km radius from the land that produced them. CSA members pay upfront for three months worth of produce, effectively purchasing a share of the total produce we grow, and then once per week they walk or cycle to collect their box at the farm.

1500 vegetable boxes, is also 1500 farm visits and 1500 conversations, and with each one of these interactions, I have witnessed a strong and very real sense of community emerge. This community is supportive, connected, resilient and inspired. Many wonderful and meaningful relationships and connections have emerged from it.

I have also facilitated thousands of hours of education and learning through the volunteering that happens onsite Tuesday through Friday, as well as the dozens of tours and visits from schools, universities, community groups and businesses.

The ultimate aim is to inspire people and present them with an entirely scalable model of food production that enhances urban resilience, beautifies our cityscapes and puts us in the best place possible for dealing with climate change. It was only two years ago that OMG was a barren, grassy, rubble-filled slope. Change can happen incredibly fast and we invite you to join us in creating this future together. We must be bold with our imagination and redefine what is considered possible by just getting out there and doing it. 

What, in your opinion, is the most unique thing about Tāmaki  Makaurau? 

Sarah: Teams of people willing to work together to transform broken systems into regenerative systems. We worked with others on the Tāmaki  Makaurau Long Term Plan and the City Centre Master Plan, which both have urban farming as a solution strategy for developing city resilience. Implementing this will be our superpower.

Levi: The most unique thing about Auckland that there is still a lot that has not been done here before and that there is so much opportunity and space for creating a-new. I believe the people and cultures of Tāmaki Makaurau are also very receptive and encouraging towards this. I have met hundreds of people at OMG over the past three years and every single one of them has been overwhelmingly supportive of the project. People are ready and waiting for cool new projects and initiatives to get involved in.  

What factors are shaping Auckland today – and what should be?

Levi: I think pressures on housing and development, and other models of ‘concrete infrastructure’ are directing and driving Auckland’s growth at a rapid, industrious rate. The projects we undertake in our development seem to be large, costly and require massive mechanical interventions.

I think we need to allocate significantly more funding and energy into the more small-scale and diverse projects that will enhance communities and ecologies from within their own place. We need to stop thinking big and start thinking local – work outwards from there.

Sarah: Auckland Council in its rush to develop data around lowering carbon emissions is currently committing us to practices and contracts that undermine our ability to genuinely regenerate our city. Two areas of work that are not considering ecosystem function or job opportunities holistically are the anaerobic bio-digestor which will take organic food scraps out of local ecosystems and turn them into energy rather than using them locally to regenerate soil systems and food security.

The second is the proposed weed control "harmonisation" of our city streets with chemicals like gylphosate, which would take us backwards 20 years when Auckland used to lead the world in organic weed control.

BFM and FTLOB are collaborating over October before the Nov 12 decision by the Environmental Committee to help people understand the enormity of this decision and to give them the confidence to ask Richard Hill to ask for a "harmonisation" that is thermal, cost-effective and safe for life. Auckland Council needs to be encouraged to develop a holistic accounting system that looks at how investment and policy impacts the whole eco-economic opportunity.

This way our city will make better investments that help rather than hinder our progress. Investing in Organic Centres of Regenerative Learning (sites like OMG) we think is a fast way to build local capacity and resilience from climate change and events like Covid-19. 

What conversations do you think Aucklanders should be having?

Sarah: How we can fast track decentralised solutions that will future-proof the organic regenerative resilience of our city. Making sure all our elected leaders, council officers and CEO's understand at a deep level how the nitrogen, and the carbon cycle works so they are armed with the information they need to unlock Auckland's potential so it can become the safest city in the world for bees, microbes and humans.

What’s your vision for central Auckland?

Levi: My dream would be for an urban farm every 500sq m, creating a network of local and regenerative food production that not only cools our climate, but creates physically healthy and connected people, and communities that are connected to the food they eat and the local place they call home.

Sarah: We have done a great job of putting carbon-reducing infrastructure into place such as the CRL, bike lanes and electric cars, but we need to focus on carbon draw-down infrastructure as quickly as possible. This is an infrastructure that takes existing carbon out of the atmosphere as quickly as possible. self-sustaining organic regenerative urban farms meet these criteria while also attending to food security and local employment.

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