Tauranga City: The First Truly Digital City of New Zealand?

  • What does digital mean to you?
  • What does a digital city look and feel like?
  • Do we want this for Tauranga? Why?
  • Is a digital city attractive to work, live and play in?
  • What is the councils role?
  • What is the citizens role?

These are some of the questions that a small group of passionate Taurangians discussed last week.

The Tauranga City Council council has gone through massive leadership change in the last few months:

  1. A vastly different elected council
  2. Completely different managers appointed to the council departments

There is a perception that councils are:

  • Slow to progress and evolve
  • Bureaurcratic, policy driven and paperwork generating
  • Where innovation and entrepreneurial thinking is discouraged

But after the discussion last week I now see the council differently.

(15 of us attended, about a third of us were TCC employees/managers from a variety of departments, and the remainder was made up of entrepreneurs/small business owners/employees.)

One major take-away for me was that I don’t see a bureaucratic, nameless, faceless blob anymore.

Instead, I see a large team of individuals that care deeply about Tauranga and it’s future. Many of whom are open to new ideas, have an “open door policy”, and want to see new projects and initiatives get off the ground.

So, can we just hold out our hands and make demands?


That’s what a baby/child does who is totally dependent on others.

We are adults, we are citizens.

Either join team Tauranga, or pack up and go live elsewhere.

What is the Citizens Role In A Digital City?

  • We can bring new ideas to the table and they’ll get to the right people in council to look at
  • We can debate the use of council funds and it’s prioritisation of projects
  • We can start new events, new projects, new initiatives and ask the council for help by donating people for committees, or getting the word out, or by donating public space, or even by bending ancient rules

What Does A Digital Savvy City Look/Feel Like?

1. Where Dialogue is Many-to-Many

  • Where its easy to dialogue between council to citizen, citizen to citizen
  • Where council blogs have comments turned on instead of turned off for fear of unpleasant/difficult discussions
  • It doesn’t have to be top-down communication that adds admin overhead. Many citizens would be quick to defend against attacks from trolls

2. Where A Strong Brand Forces Ancient Connotations Out

  • We have these out-of-date associations that we need to shake off: “retirement village”, “fruit growers”, “$10 Tauranga”
  • A new, strong brand can drive these associations out, so that’s our opportunity
  • Should the brand development be outsourced to an agency or crowd-sourced from it’s citizens (or both?)

3. Where Technology Makes Meeting Face-to-Face Even Easier

  • Would it be attractive to Auckland based employers to have remote-workers living/working from Tauranga if we had frictionless booking of offices/meeting rooms?
  • Free, high speed wifi / mobile broadband seems an obvious starting point
  • Interesting meeting spaces such as “maker-spaces” with 3D printers, robotics, gene sequencing

What Are We Waiting For?

  • Hardware?
    • No. It’s cheap, or it’s high-powered and in your pocket
  • Software?
    • No. It’s free or cheap per month, and it’s everywhere you have an internet connection
  • People?
    • No. All we need are passionate people that are curious and inquisitive, that have a collaborative mindset, not a competitive one

So let’s get started.

What’s Next?

This is new territory for all of us, and this meeting was just the first step.

The next step is to meet again in the new year and bounce more ideas around.

None of us are happy with discussion that goes round and round in circles and fails to deliver action, so expect the next meeting to be about determining what actions councils and citizens need to take next to have the future we want.

To join the invitation list email pip.loader@tauranga.govt.nz or sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz.

Our notes were captured on a whiteboard and collated into this 2 page document: Download it now (97Kb .pdf)


2 Replies to “Tauranga City: The First Truly Digital City of New Zealand?”

  1. Thanks Sheldon for opening a convo follow up here. This meeting was indeed an opportunity to bounce ideas around dreaming a digital Tauranga where technology is so fully integrated in the city’s infrastructure that is it is totally ubiquitous!
    Many cities are currently actioning steps but it is never too late to get started!
    Clear aims and an actionable strategy can be born of conversation like was had last week.
    I have read with interest Wellington’s digital strategy http://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/plans-policies-and-bylaws/plans-and-policies/a-to-z/digital/files/digital-strategy.pdf
    And Waitakere’s sums up the attributes of a “digital city” as being “super fast connection, enhanced user confidence and cool content” http://www.waitakereonline.co.nz/waitakere/pdf/digitalcitystrategy.pdf

    This survey of US Cities classified by population size http://www.digitalcommunities.com/survey/cities/ also lists, among others, the following:
    transparency with open government initiatives (open data)
    access to city services via mobile apps
    engagement with citizens and facilitate the participation of the public
    strengthen creative interaction between knowledge-business-public sectors
    promote entrepreneurship in knowledge based sectors

    There is no shortage of food for thoughts and ideas and existing models. The conversation ought to open to all in the community and that may take the effort to meet them where they are, schools, library, senior groups, community organizations, youth groups, business groups etc, and a framework adopted to distill the goodness into actionable steps!

    Making Tauranga a city where all have a voice, express it freely and constructively in knowledge it it is listened to, combined to an “and and and” approach to creative sustainable solutions would be a great first step to take in this new territory.

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