As the axis around which the global economic system rotates, cities are playing a continual, increasingly important role in economic growth.

Cities concentrate the assets of the modern economy and compete every day for talent, investment, businesses, trade, visitors, events and conventions. Over half of the world’s population already live in cities – a number that’s rising as the competition in these urban areas heats up.

A recent analysis of the performance and potential of cities undertaken by the global management consultancy, A.T. Kearney, Global Cities 2017: Leaders in a World of Disruptive Innovation, analysed the performance of 128 cities in six world regions.

The index examined each city’s current performance in terms of business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement. It also looked at the potential of these cities measured by the rate of change on factors such as personal well-being, economics, innovation, and governance.

From a local perspective, one point stands out: no New Zealand cities were included in the index. It’s true that, as is often the case in these kinds of rankings, the usual suspects find their way to the top. Perennial heavy hitters like New York, London, Paris and Tokyo occupy the top slots in Global Cities 2017 on the basis of current performance.

There are also a number of higher ‘quality of life’ cities, such as San Francisco and Melbourne who tend to be smaller, with more specialised economies and are increasingly magnets for globally mobile talent, which perform well on their potential, while a “global elite” of 16 cities that rank in the top 25 of both performance and potential are identified.

So where does Auckland fit into this global picture of cities?

The four Asia Pacific cities in the global elite category include Melbourne and Sydney. Looking specifically at these two cities, given their spatial proximity, both perform well on measures related to environmental performance and quality of bureaucracy, while Melbourne leads the way on personal well-being.

While it might be contentious to say, Auckland is arguably New Zealand's only truly global city, it is becoming apparent that all of New Zealand's towns and cities need to be competitive on the international stage.

On this front there is more work to be done if the attractiveness and performance of New Zealand cities is to be improved. While we continue to do well on quality of life measures, there is more work to be done on the economic dynamism of our economy.

When it comes to cities there are a wide range of factors that influence competitiveness, it is true that many of these factors are outside of the control of even national governments. However it would be a mistake to suggest that cities cannot shape their own futures and influence the direction of their growth or the success of their economies.

New Zealand’s cities need to focus on those factors that are positively correlated with economic success and where city leadership can play a critical role in supporting the conditions that enable growth. These factors include ensuring that there is appropriate economic infrastructure at the city level to support the growth of key sectors and companies.

Such infrastructure includes access to suitable land and premises to support company growth and expansion, an efficient transport network that supports the movement of goods and people both within the city and internationally, a workforce that has the skills and talent that they need to thrive and access to city-to-city networks that facilitate the development of productive trading relationships.

Cities have a leadership role to play in each of the elements, but effective and sustained action requires collaboration across the government and private sectors.

This should be a shared objective for all New Zealand cities and a priority for all political parties in this election year, putting any local rivalries to one side as we seek to make our collective mark on the world stage.

Improving Auckland’s productivity through a focus on skills, innovation, investment and trade will continue to build our region’s reputation as an emerging global business destination. Find out which segments of Auckland’s economy offer the greatest potential.