Wellington: So much going for it ... so much to do

14:57, Jun 11 2013
rod drury

"Designing our digital city and creating simple amenities that embrace and extend what we already do in Wellington are simple low to no cost ideas that lift our quality of life." - Rod Drury, Xero chief executive

Wellington is a special city. Its small size and distinct centre creates serendipity. Relationships grow quickly as you keep bumping into the same people even though they can be so different to you. It's diverse. It's personal. Creativity flourishes in cities like Wellington.

I spend a lot of time in San Francisco. We have a great team there. It's the centre of the Internet and I enjoy visiting.

I choose not to live in San Francisco. I can't deal with spending hours driving up and down the freeway for meetings, queuing for everything, squeezing around a small table for dinner and simply that many people.

Coming home I always know we have the prize. New Zealand is a fantastic place to live, relationships seem more real, food is better and the Internet connects us into what's happening.

What I do miss from San Francisco is the digital lifestyle. They have scale and so online services work. Finding things, buying stuff, and reviews work when you have scale. The coolest thing about my last trip was Ubercabs.



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From a restaurant you can open your phone, confirm where you are, select a driver who is close, see the cab coming, step outside as it pulls up and when you arrive simply step out and everything is paid for. Ubercabs is convenient, safe and a wonderful blur of the real and digital worlds.

We could have an Ubercab service in Wellington - or anywhere in New Zealand.

While we're too small for a cab company do it themselves, we can design a digital experience that makes our city special. Here's how it could work: We paint a vision of how we want taxis to run in Wellington. A technology company can provide a neutral service that all taxi companies can participate in. We educate the taxi companies about how we want them to work for us. The smart ones will jump on board, likely saving money. This new service is greener, safer and a delight to use, suiting the ‘asset light' lifestyle young people seek when they choose Wellington.

That's just the start. Continuing our digital vision we educate retailers to update their EFT-POS terminals to the latest PayWave technology. We don't type in PIN numbers to buy coffee or lunch anymore. We're Wellington. We're organised. We're digital. When mobile payments arrive next year we should be right on that. Soon overseas technology companies notice us. This is the place to try new technologies. Wellington is the digital test lab.

Balancing our digital lifestyle is the raw and beautiful environment we live in. What other cities wrap around such a beautiful harbour and are back-dropped with dramatic hills and bush?

I know that when you're in your 40s and with children sneaking in exercise during the week ranks high on the want list. Grabbing a paddle board to hit the water for 45 minutes over lunch on those calm February days or jumping on your bike for a few circuits of the Mount Victoria or Brooklyn tracks literally extends your life.

You can't get out before, during or after work in Auckland as you can in Wellington. It's unique.

So how do we amp that up? It's pretty simple. Lets design our interface with the harbor and hills. Already many companies have bike sheds and showers but let's go bigger.

Imagine the 2014 version of the Port Nicholson boat sheds as a clean and secure area for throwing on a wetsuit and jumping on a board or hosing down your bike before heading back to work. Maybe there are a few of these facilities.

The Shed 6 area would be ideal downtown. Corporates would lease space and clubs can be set up for people to use these facilities at a reasonable cost. I'd rather get on a bike than be stuck in a gym.

Designing our digital city and creating simple amenities that embrace and extend what we already do in Wellington are simple low to no cost ideas that lift our quality of life.

We're small enough to get organised, and globally that's our competitive advantage.

Rod Drury is chief executive of online accounting software company Xero.

The Dominion Post