Auckland’s ‘most liveable’ city loses some gloss with Pacific criticism

Auckland wprld's most liveable city 180621
In the world's "most liveable" city, Aucklanders dealt well with covid-19. Image: Michael Craig/New Zealand Herald

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Days after being condemned by the largest Pacific Island capital — Port Moresby, the Economist’s Global Liveability Index has been criticised in Auckland by one of New Zealand’s most respected “green” columnists.

The criticisms come from different ends of the spectrum — Port Moresby was third to last in the 140-nation survey while Auckland, with the world’s largest urban Polynesian population, was top.

Both results were thanks to city responses to the global covid-19 pandemic.

National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop had roasted the Economist index, criticising the “irresponsible” criteria used in in the index assessment and called for a rethink about his sprawling city of Port Moresby (pop. 391,000).

“This is a harsh verdict on our city, which we have worked so hard to build,” Parkop said.

Leading Māori academic Associate Professor Ella Henry of Auckland University of Technology also criticised the criteria saying few indigenous tangata whenua people would agree with Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau (pop. 1.6 million, with 11.5 percent Māori) being the world’s “most liveable” city.

“In particular, I would argue that many Māori whānau in Auckland do not enjoy the benefits of this supposed ‘liveability’,” she said, citing negative employment, health, housing, poverty and digital divide statistics.

Global ‘low bar’
However, while New Zealand Herald commentator Simon Wilson, celebrated for his environmentally progressive views on Auckland, today welcomed his city’s success, he also  criticised the global “low bar” that had contributed to the Economist result.

“It sure puts covid into perspective, doesn’t it? Auckland … is now the world’s most liveable city. And it’s all because of our response to the pandemic,” he wrote.

“Britain has just delayed lifting all restrictions by another month. The fast rollout of vaccines in the US has stalled at around 50 percent, because nobody really knows how to persuade the remaining half of the population to get the jab.

“European and Asian countries alike slide in and out of covid crises. The nightmare that is India seems almost beyond redemption. This is a terrible tragedy.

“Here in Tāmaki Makaurau, meanwhile, we enjoy the luxury of debating the future of yachting contests, school zones and cycling on the harbour bridge.

“Yes, for now and at least into the near future, Auckland has every reason to think of itself as the world’s most liveable city. But the bar is very low.”

Wilson also wrote that it was not very encouraging that the Japanese city of Osaka had been placed second on the index.

What to crow about?
“The Japanese city has uncontrolled covid and is set to be half submerged by even a minimal rise in sea levels,” he observed.

“Here [in Auckland], though, setting covid aside, what else have we got to crow, or complain, about?” Wilson continued.

“We’re tremendously liveable, obviously, if you own property – and cruelly not so if you don’t. We’re tremendously liveable if your life doesn’t oblige you to get stuck in traffic, but not so much, etc.

“Some of us have reasonably well-paid future-focused jobs while others of us are precariously clinging to the gig economy, or are on minimum wage, or are not in the productive economy at all.

“The fact is, measuring liveability is a spurious business. The only markers that count should be the ones that acknowledge we’re doing well when we’re all doing well.”

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