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The Wellington effect | from the Moxie Sessions

Vaughn Davis reviews July's Moxie Session in The Wellington effect at The National Business Review.

Wellington punches above weight in tech innovation. The reason is simple. Wellington has more innovative people per square metre than any other city in the region.

A compact central city helps.

When I lived in Wellington I would leave my desk and walk along Lambton Quay to get coffee or lunch. By the time I was back I'd have three solid tech news stories. Every day. Without fail.

This doesn't happen in Auckland. It can't happen in Auckland. There's interaction, but on nothing like the same scale and it has to be organised.

Where interaction is natural

In Wellington interaction is a natural part of everyday life. Wellington's culture helps. Go see a band, a movie, the theatre, have dinner, take small children to the swings and I guarantee you'll run into interesting people.

Ian Apperley says much the same thing in his What is Wellington? blog:

Lambton Quay is the longest meeting room in the country, what should take five minutes from one end of the street to the other, can take three times as long as you run into people from all walks of the local IT industry.


Auckland has no quick answer to this. Intensification may help, but only if all the right types of people agree to cluster in the same places.

Another key to Wellington's success is not just the number of worthwhile contacts per square metre, but also the number of worthwhile tech contacts per thousand citizens. From a brutal tech innovation point of view, Auckland carries more dead-weight.

Moxie Sessions are held in Auckland. Two of the three speakers: Will Charles from UniServices, the commercial arm of Auckland University and Brett O’Riley from ATEED are Auckland innovation professionals. We met at Vend - a poster child for Auckland innovation. Most of us at the table live and work in the city.

So it felt odd discussing Wellington and how New Zealand's capital punches above weight. Even odder when you consider the relative technology innovation performance of Victoria University and Auckland University.

Auckland is a big city, even by regional standards. It needs to become more Wellington-like if New Zealand is to be more innovative. Can we do anything to make this happen?

Any top-down way of fixing the density issue is difficult, expensive or horrible. Do you want someone to mandate that all tech entrepreneurs have to work in a particular area? That would be the fastest way to get them running to Wellington or worse, overseas.