It Is Time to Choose Your Right Mayor
New Economy New Perspective New Approach
A new and independent Auckland Mayoral Candidate
Auckland has entered an unprecedented stage of new opportunities and challenges that requires innovative, pragmatic approaches which old ways of thinking no longer fit. Henceforth, Auckland needs a new vision for 2020!
Currently one fourth of New Aucklanders are born out of New Zealand, they are priceless assets under-utilized. Upgrade and revitalization of their talents is critical to the uplifting and well-being of Auckland City.
I bring a global and team perspective around 10 years respectively in University teaching English Literature, first representative for global companies, and extensive experience in government sectors in Auckland.
I know what Aucklanders need and want.
It is high time that Aucklanders vote for the future of Auckland together!
Let’s Vote and Create History!
Auckland Independent Mayoral Candidate
An article from the Chinese Herald
John Hong: Right Time, Right Mayor
“It is right time to do right thing by the right Mayor,” said John Hong, candidate for 2019 Auckland Mayoral Election.
In China, people always say that “A sharp sword comes from tenacious sharpening, the fragrance of plum blossoms comes from the bitter cold (宝剑锋从磨砺出，梅花香自苦寒来)”, and “It takes ten years to sharpen a sword (十年磨一剑)”, it takes great pain to be perfect. And this is also true to us. To make great achievements, we need to endure all the loneliness and embrace all the pain.
The sayings have again been proven right in the stories of John Hong, a Chinese New Zealander.
In the 2019 Auckland mayoral election, candidate Hong is making the history. For the first time in the city’s 178-year history, Hong, a first-generation Chinese immigrant, is running for the Mayor of Auckland.
What drives him to run for the position? In an exclusive interview, Hong told Chinese Herald more about his stories.
Who is John Hong?
It has been 16 years since Hong, the 55-year-old man from China’s Fujian Province, immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand in 2003.
By listening to his stories, we could not help being impressed.
In the 1981 College Entrance Examination, Hong scored the highest grade among all students in Fuqing, a city of Fujian province, in the subject of English. Four years later, he became a lecturer with the College of Foreign Languages, Fujian Normal University. In 1987, he started his postgraduate study in foreign languages with the best grade in the entrance examination and became a student of professor Lin Jitao, fifth descendent of Lin Zexu, the Chinese Opium War hero. After graduating with Postgraduate Diploma in English & American Literature in China, Hong earned a second postgraduate diploma in Translation Studies in the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Having been an English professor for nearly ten years, Hong possesses a great deal of knowledge of the western world, including its literature, geology, history, philosophy, religion, law, taxation, etc. His profound understanding of the culture has paved the way for his later being quickly accustomed to the society in New Zealand.
Hong’s career has also been remarkable.
Hong has worked as Manager of Auckland Regional Council Communication and Engagement, Team Leader Asia, Statistics New Zealand, Inaugural Steering Committee Member, the Southern Initiative, Auckland Council, Inaugural Member of Ethnic Panel of Auckland Council, Asia-Pacific Investment Advisor at former Waterfront Auckland, Head of Investment and International Relationships at Panuku an Auckland Council Controlled Organization. Executive of New Zealand China Trade Association (NZCTA), Member of China Engagement New Zealand Core Cities, Board of Trustee, Pigeon Mountain Primary School etc.
John is currently an independent candidate of Auckland mayoral election.
It was never easy for a Chinese migrant to have such a profound experience with the Auckland Council. In Hong’s words, his interview for the special advisor with the Waterfront Auckland was quite a battle, where he was questioned by seven members of the board at the same time. But he finally scored the position and has been working diligently.
Hong has also served global renowned companies including Puma and Adidas. For decades, the candidate has been dedicated to the cultural communication and economic exchange between Eastern and Western countries.
Eight Mountains Beyond-The New Landmark of Auckland
Hong shared with us two accomplishments he is most proud of.
“The first would be the concept of whole Auckland Waterfront development zone rather than Wynyard Quarter that I came up with while attracting global partners and investors. It was the first large-scale development project in New Zealand transforming old industrial port into complex new development. And the now booming coastal area has been a role model of the whole country. Once elected as Mayor of Auckland, my plan would be to construct a multi-functional public facility that could be a symbol of Auckland, New Zealand and the Southern Pacific Ocean. It will highlight Westhaven Marina and would be even more dazzling than the Darling Harbor of Sydney. Frankly speaking, I don’t think Darling Harbor would be a great role model, for some of the apartments they built block the beautiful landscape. Therefore, we’ve decided to construct a development area where the unique beauty of Auckland, the mountains and the ocean, the unobstructed view, could be enjoyed by all.”
Another would be the construction of Park Hyatt Auckland, the exclusive luxury super five-star hotel in Auckland. The project, featuring around 500 Million New Zealand Dollars investment, has been the largest Chinese investment in New Zealand’s public tourism infrastructure. As the project initiator, John Hong also took part in all phases of the program- from project approval through the foundation stone laying ceremony, to the start of construction. Together with Sir Bob Harvey, John Dalzell and other former Waterfront Auckland colleagues, Hong has had more than ten negotiations with the investors to finalize every detail of the project, including the number of layers of the hotel and the construction period. There was a meeting held in Beijing that started early in the morning and didn’t end until late at night. “It was only me and my CEO versus another ten experts sitting on the other side of the table.” Hong said, “The day was absolutely a competition, both physically and mentally, in fact that night we give up the invitation of gala dinner welcoming Sir John Key, the then New Zealand Prime Minister in Beijing and spent the night reaching the deal for New Zealand benefit, which deeply impressed the investors”
“To make sure the project get approved, we needed to consult with the local community, local business communities, the Iwi, the Viaduct Holdings, and we also needed to convince Waterfront Auckland, the local board, the Ward Councilors and the Auckland Council that the investor is a genuine one.. It was like there were eight mountains in front of us before we get there. Apart from the eight challenges, we also needed to negotiate with the central government. The process was never easy. But we finally got it approved, and now the hotel has become a new landmark of Auckland, and as a result of the first investment, the investor has invested more into New Zealand tourism infrastructure across the country.”
Why the mayor of Auckland?
“It is right time to do right thing by the right Mayor! I think now is the time.”
There have been voices sounding unsatisfaction about the current local government and some have even decided not to vote for any candidate, said Hong. “What they need is a leader who cares about them, who are capable of taking good care of them. With this leader, they will build a better Auckland together. And this leader, rather than caring about only the title or the position, will solve the problems of our daily life in Auckland. I have worked with people from different countries from all walks of life and have worked with people from different communities in Auckland. I understand the need and want of ordinary Aucklanders . I will speak for them. I understand local cultures and communities. I will speak for all the peoples of Auckland.”
Hong believes that many immigrates would find him connected with them. “Like most of the immigrates, I came to Auckland to study, to work, and to make a living. We have similar stories and similar wishes. Everyone in Auckland has been working hard, but not many have got a life they deserve. So many Aucklanders are working diligently but they get nothing more than bread on their table. This is depressing. That is why I believe it is high time I put into use what I have learned in my thirty years of being a businessman, a scholar and a professional for this city. I want to make people’s life better. I have got the energy, determination and capability of working for the people of Auckland.
“Among over 1.6 million people in Auckland, if less than 20% would vote for their choice, I don’t think the result would be convincing at all. I am not a speaker of any party. I run independently. I would try my best to convince all the Aucklanders. I sincerely hope Aucklanders genuinely choose the mayor they want, the mayor that can solve the problems. If we all remain like this and abandon our right to vote, I’m afraid the current volatile global economy could be less predictable in the years to come, and that the life in Auckland could be even less affordable.”
Hong believes that many ideas and models made by the Auckland Council don’t apply to the challenging situations in the city any longer. Many of the strategies are hardly practical. “It is time we rebuild this city in a new way,” Hong said, “we need to understand the city in psychological and sociological ways. Aucklanders cannot think and live like it was 1920. We must make the city the way it should be like in 2020.”
Dredging the city’s “blood vessels”
Traffic congestion has become one of the problems in the city. It has even become a joke among the Aucklanders that traffic jam is so common that not having it would become the headline.
Hong told us the traffic problem in Auckland is more serious than in Manila, the capital and the biggest city of The Philippines, also known as “Asian New York” and “the city of congestion”. The situation is far beyond imagination given that Auckland has a population of merely 1.6 million people, yet Manila has over 20 million residents. The government should expand its effort to facilitate the road condition and improve its planning and management system.
“For Auckland, I plan to build a new transport line to ease the traffic pressure, just like dredging blood vessels in human body. For now, SH1 is the only road that links Auckland with other cities. Once blocked, the whole transportation system would be paralyzed and thousands of people would have trouble commuting, which would definitely lead to huge economic loss. Apart from broadening the highway of SH1, I would suggest that the Great South Road be upgrade. Then the people will have two choices heading south. Meanwhile, we can also build Complex Centers along the Great South Road, which will definitely add value to the commercial property and bring prosperity to the local community.”
“Besides, I plan to construct a new bridge which connects Devonport and downtown city. Thus, the bridge will be linked to the East Coast Road, serving as a second parallel trunk road which extends all the way up to Rodney and open up Whangarei and Northland. The bridge will also further the development of Auckland Waterfront, which covers an area from Westhaven Marina to St. Heliers. The coastal development zone will emerge as a financial, cultural, tourist, logistic and new-economy center.”
Hong also introduced his plan in detail about the eastern part of the city. Due to historical reasons, said the candidate, there is only one highway in East Auckland, the Pakuranga Highway. As a result of the effort made by the past several administrations, the east was connected to the middle through the project of AMETI (Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative). But that was far from enough. The highway still lacks the potential for long-term development and operation. “I believe we should grasp the chance of broadening the road and build a road-rail bridge, or we can also extend the railway station from Panmure or Sylvia Park to Pakuranga Plaza and make it a park-and-ride center, so that the Botany Center and Manukau City Centre can both be connected to the railway line and the traffic problem in the east and south Auckland could hopefully be relieved.”
“Building a bridge connecting Karaka and Auckland Airport will realize the potential of southern Auckland and ease and solve the traffic and housing problems.”
Hong also talked about the younger generation who face the same problem: “The youngsters are our future. My team will collaborate with relevant departments and push forward a series of public service plans. To name one, we will open new mini-bus routes during the morning rush hours (every 15 minutes from 6 to 8 a.m.) for college students. Many of them get up very early in the morning and spend two hours being stuck in traffic, and they are already exhausted before they arrive at school. The negative effect on their health and study is obvious. What’s more, the new bus routes can also facilitate office workers who go to work during the hours.”
“My current plan is to provide bus service between certain major stations, such as Manukau, Albany, Waitakere and Botany. Residents can park and ride near the stations, which would ease traffic pressure in Auckland to a very large extent. It’s estimated that in one or two decades the population of Auckland will reach two million. Without new ideas or new methods, it would become real that riding bikes or driving cars could take more time than walking. We need to look at the problem with an insight for future.”
We always say that roads are essential for prosperity. Once the vessels of Auckland from north to south have been dredged, the infrastructure across the city will be comprehensively improved. “I have a package of solutions for traffic problems in Auckland. I am confident that it will be helpful.”
So, where does the money come from? Will the tax rise? Hong’s answer is a resolute “No”. He said:“As far as my knowledge about different development models around the world, especially in developed countries, I believe that the government can raise fund through Build-and-Transfer, a form of project financing (wherein the government uses non-government funds to construct non-operational infrastructure), or Build-Operate-Transfer (wherein a private entity receives a concession to participate in the construction of the infrastructure and provide public service). In other words, the investors are responsible for the fund-raising, management and operation of the infrastructure before the projects are transferred to the Auckland Council. The government will not bear any loss and our citizens will not pay any extra tax for it.
“Past few decades have witnessed the success of this form of project in cities including Singapore, Hong Kong and many other cities in mainland China. A well-developed transportation system will drive economic development and attract talents and further investment. We will further integrate Auckland into international cooperation and keep seeking global investment, which will boost the city’s economy, technology and employment and generate revenues. With more international investment, there will be more opportunities of entrepreneurship, employment and international tax revenue. Local residents, then, will be faced with less economic pressure.”
Where does the money come from?
Will there be any abatement for fuel tax or land tax?
In respect of economic pressure, another issue that citizens have paid much attention to, Hong said that “the increase of land tax brings more revenue to the government, but the actual price of the house will increase at the same time.” It does the people no good at all, except for those speculators. In other words, the increase of tax and house price brings more pressure to the settlers in Auckland. To solve the problem, it is utterly important for the government to lower the fee for different kinds of examinations, consents and approvals and that of infrastructure, so that the price of land would be reduced.
“It seems that the land rate only rose from 2.5% to possibly 3.5%, but each family actually had to pay extra hundred dollars, even thousand dollars for land rate, given the huge base number of medium house price. It puts too much pressure on the residents. If I am elected, my professional team on taxation issues will review current policies and laws. For those rules already made into law, we will wait for the right moment to make adjustment or amendment. Our key concern is to relieve the pressure of our citizens.” Reduce Land rate when people are in difficulty and increase ways and means of income source is the top priority for Aucklanders.
How to deal with the housing problem?
The housing problem is another bottle neck that both central and local governments are facing. Hong said that the first step to solve the problem is “to attract foreign investment and introduce new technology, high-end talents and advanced management experience. Prefabricated houses, a popular housing model already mature in many countries like Germany, Japan, Britain, China and Singapore, is an example.”
Besides, we can also develop new districts instead of rebuilding the old districts disruptively. The old districts should be handled carefully to maintain, reserve and keep their beauty. We need to reform the forgotten places like Rodney, where the infrastructure should be optimized to facilitate the local community.
“If I am elected, I would not separate the strategies of our city from national development. Auckland has been the engine for domestic economy. Facing south, Auckland plays the role of gateway and economic center, integrating Tauranga and Hamilton into the Golden Triangle Area and stimulating and unlocking the economic potential of Waikato. To the north, Auckland will collaborate with Whangarei to relieve the housing and traffic pressure in Auckland and to boost the economy in Whangarei, thus pushing forward the overall development of Northland.”
The hub of international talents
Education exports is a pillar industry of Auckland. It is commonly acknowledged that human resource is the most important factor of productivity. Local universities, colleges and vocational schools shoulder the responsibility of cultivating talents for Auckland and New Zealand. Cooperation with renowned universities around the world is a great opportunity to expand talent pool for local development and export innovative talents to other countries. Through the two-way exchange of education, Auckland can build its brand as a hub of international talents and education.
Auckland as an international metropolis
Auckland is not a end of the world in the Pacific Ocean. It is an international metropolis at the center of the southern hemisphere. It connects south Pacific Ocean and South America, from which all kinds of agricultural products can be handled, packaged and transported in the city, and serves as a center of transportation, logistics, finance and economy in the south Pacific region. Thus, we can attract lots of revenues and further investments and make Auckland a real hub and global leading city.
Vote for me. People First, Politics Aside!
“I have accumulated rich experience in academic, business and political circles. I am a genuine Aucklander and always promote New Zealand globally. I know very much about our citizens’ demand regardless of their race, cultural background and accent. They will find a sense of belonging here in Auckland.”
“The current local government has put too much emphasis on political correctness. For Auckland, the most urgent thing is to seek and boost economic development and improve people’s living standard. This is what a mayor should do. Factionalism cannot meet the interests of the majority of Auckland citizens. The next mayor must ensure happiness and prosperity for all people. People first, politics aside.”
Hong also threw an acute question to the council: How can people gain happiness without good jobs, decent income, satisfying living environment and a bright future for personal development? “Only if we create more jobs and fortune for the people can our citizens enjoy their life and gain true happiness. Let the purse be fatter and the politics be thinner.”
Persistence is the key to success.
John Hong, Candidate of 2019 Auckland Mayor Election
He wants to tell all Aucklanders:
“一起吧”(together, pinyin: yīqǐ ba), sounds like 178 (pinyin: yī qī bā) in Mandarin. Hong is the first Chinese New Zealander running for mayor of Auckland in the city’s 178 years of history.