Wellington Smart City 1.0: Introduction

wellington from spaceWith the local body elections coming up it is a good time to visit the concept of a Smart City. Over the next few weeks I want to run a series of Blogs on how Wellington could develop itself into a Smart City and also, who in the list of candidates for Mayor and Council, is aligned most with that vision.

It is a little bit of a move away from the technology aspects of this blog. More toward how technology, and Cloud Computing in particular, can provide a critical layer of support to the wider idea of a Smart City.

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, a compact region of less than half a million people when you take into account its outlying regions. The city itself comprises around two-hundred thousand people. Its geography is very compact, surrounded by high hills, with an almost fully enclosed harbor.

Caught between Cook Strait, the Rimutaka Range, and facing south into the Arctic, Wellington is subject to some of the most extreme weather on the planet. If it isn’t the Northerly thundering down the harbor at over one hundred kilometers an hour, it’s the freezing cold Southerly roaring up from the Arctic with fourteen meter swells, walls of water nearing fifty feet high.

Wellington airport rates as one of the wildest landings on the planet as planes dip through gales, between the high hills, cutting through the turbulence, to land on one of the shortest international airports in the world.

The city itself, circled by the hills, is broken into unofficial precincts. Courtenay Place is the entertainment area that rolls into the alternative Cuba Mall area and on down the Golden Mile to the government end of town where parliament waffles in a massive monstrosity known as “the Beehive.”

“You can’t beat Wellington on a good day” is a well-known local phrase and in an upside to climate change, the weather, and temperature, is steadily getting better and warmer.

Wellington is the arts capital of New Zealand and hosts a range of events over the year with one of the highlights being the Rugby Sevens in February, a two day, city-wide fancy dress party where apparently, there are some rugby games played.

The city boasts an outstanding Film Industry based in the Eastern Suburbs and overseen by Peter Jackson and his colleagues. Anywhere up to twenty movies can be on the go at once with The Hobbit currently being finished off.

Coffee and café culture in the city is an obsession. Cafes are packed in all kinds of weather at all times of the day and night.

Restaurants, bars, and other entertainment establishments can be found everywhere. There is a high number of craft beer establishments that have created a strong following.

Wellington has a number of Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT or computer) companies that are very successful working together to innovate.

Wellingtonians have survived the long and grueling “financial crisis” but not unscathed. Businesses have failed, the local Council is struggling financially, government has made cuts that have hurt the city, and economic indicators are sluggish.

Coupled with that, other cities around the country are starting to move ahead and are a direct competitive threat to Wellington. As Christchurch begins to recover and “power up” after its earthquakes, it is building an environment that is attractive to high tech industry and other business.

Wellington needs to adapt to being a Smart City and it needs to start now.

What is a Smart City?

A developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and / or ICT Infrastructure. – Business Dictionary

A Smart City is a city that looks at itself as an ecosystem in a balanced way, a bit like the human body. Each part has an important role to play and a holistic view is necessary in order to maintain balance.

Focusing on a single area and neglecting others leads to imbalance in the ecosystem. For example, if we push all our resource into public transport without thinking about the wider transport system, we will cause the public transport system to fail as the wider system overruns it.

I am going to focus on a range of areas that I think Wellington should think about. I am sure there are other parts of the ecosystem that could benefit from being made Smart, this is certainly not an exhaustive list.

My background is freelance writing and ICT so I am going to focus on the aspect of ICT infrastructure and Cloud Computing as an underpinning critical piece to a Smart City.

The areas that I want to cover are; Public transport, other road user management, ICT connectivity as critical infrastructure, the ICT & innovation hub, smart energy, governance, housing, the smart grid powered by smartphone apps, local community Cloud Computing, smart supply, preparing for climate change, and then finishing up with some international examples.

In some respects, Smart Cities see the return of the community. Prior to the Internet Age we saw cities in a less than holistic way. The city became a place of commerce with little thinking about the other aspects aside from perhaps governance.

Wellington has seen, as other cities, the rise of the Green movement in the last decade. This has focused on key aspects of the city’s ecosystem to the detriment of others.

The Smart City is a holistic blend of planning that is underpinned by people and smart technology in order to protect and grow a unique ecosystem.


  1. I’m looking forward to this series. You’ll be touching on a few issues that are close to my heart: transport and how it relates to urban design and livability, smart infrastructure – mostly urban sensor networks, and innovation benefits from agglomeration. I’m slightly weary of a certain tone in your writing, but a convincing argument with supporting evidence will win me over. Even if we disagree, I think the discussion will be valuable.

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