The only constant is change

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Thirty years ago, the world wide web hadn’t been invented. Nor had mobile phones, downloadable movies, txts and pxts, or any other features of the digital age. No one was interested in climate change or wireless technology. Wellington didn’t have the Regional Stadium, Te Papa, Waitangi Park, Weta Workshop, or even many cafés.

We can hardly imagine what the next 30 years will bring.

But we do know that cities like ours will have to change. Just as Wellington in the past 30 years has been shaped by major forces such as globalisation, the rise of the internet and the freeing up of market economies, the following trends are likely to shape cities of the future.

  • Cities of the future will be shaped by technology
  • Our response to climate change will become ever more urgent
  • Lifestyles and demands on cities will change
  • Competition between cities will become ever more intense
  • Basic resources will be scarcer.
  • Cities of the future will be shaped by technology

Ways of living, working and spending leisure time will change profoundly in the next 30 years. Already, a new digital era is evolving based on the rise of hand-held devices, social networking, and anywhere/anytime connectivity.

Where people live and work, the type of jobs they do, the skills they need, how they communicate with and relate to one another, and how they entertain themselves will all profoundly change as new generations of digital technology become available and as new generations of ‘digital natives’ enter the workforce and leadership roles. [See i-City]

Our response to climate change will become ever more urgent

As global greenhouse emissions continue to rise and the developing world seeks to adopt western standards of living, the effects of climate change will be increasingly felt by people around the world.

Cities – not countries – will lead the way in adapting to climate change, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing new ways of living, working and producing goods that do not cause environmental harm. [See It's not easy being green]

Lifestyles and demands on cities will change

Throughout the developed world, city populations are becoming more diverse – in terms of culture, language, taste and interests. City populations are also ageing, and demands on cities are growing.

While a city was once expected to provide the basics like water, drainage, transport, public parks and public health and safety, residents increasingly expect the city to provide a greater range of work, recreation, leisure and entertainment opportunities suitable for all lifestyles and stages of life. [See Older and bolder]

Competition between cities will become ever more intense

In recent decades, major cities – such as Auckland, Sydney, Singapore and Shanghai have increasingly dominated economic and population growth in Australasia and Asia, attracting ever greater shares of skills, business and investment. This trend has strengthened as people have become more mobile – moving between cities and countries as opportunities and lifestyle choices demand. [See Place is everything]

It remains to be seen whether technology will change this, such as by reducing barriers between smaller cities and export markets. Whether it does or not, smaller cities will have to find ways to compete and collaborate, by offering outstanding quality of life, and by occupying important niches as part of a broader regional and global economy. [See Big Cities Big Growth]

Basic resources will be scarcer

As populations grow, demand for basic resources – food, water and energy – will increase. For all cities, managing these demands will become more pressing. Where there are abundant resources (such as rainfall in Wellington), decisions will have to be made about how to manage them. [See Basic Commodities as Scarce Resources]