New Zealand


Justin Lester


207,900 (2016)

Lead Innovation Officer

Sean Audain

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Improve internal government operations

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Focus on measurement

  • Leadership from Mayor

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Wellington

Wellington has developed a constellation of systems which enables the city to view data in a metropolitan scale virtual system. This has allowed a whole range of city planning, climate change and resilience programs to effectively engage with the public, and with other public agencies. There is also a range of work being done integrating machine learning and acoustic sensors (IoT): from assessing the effectiveness of bird conservation to assisting with more informed urban design. The city has also created shared information systems across authorities which are helping fix minor issues in the environment to prevent hospital admissions and create ongoing relationships with communities.

Note: The City Innovation Snapshot (PDF version) was produced in 2019 and some aggregate findings have been updated with the latest survey results below.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Wellington does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Wellington approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Wellington is focused on

Social inclusion and equity
City resilience
Policy areas by number of cities

Wellington utilizes 6 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Communication officer
Community engagement staff
Urban planner
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated in the City Manager’s office, Wellington’s innovation work is led by the Innovation Officer leading and mentoring staff across the municipality.

Terms Wellington most associates with innovation

Human-centered design

Wellington's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
Developing new solutions based on digital technologies
e.g. use of drones or smart sensors
Facilitating organizational change within the municipality
e.g. silo-busting; new internal performance management; staff training and capacity building on innovation tools or techniques; reforms to contracting or procurement
Human-centered design
e.g. prioritizing the end-user at each stage of the design process
Rethinking approaches to financing and partnerships
e.g. new public-private-partnerships; collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions
  1. 1

    Taking risks or testing new ideas

  2. 2

    Data-driven analytics/public data management

  3. 3

    Engaging residents in new ways

  4. 4

    Developing new solutions based on digital technologies

  5. 5

    Organizational change within the municipality

  6. 6

    Human-centered design

  7. 7

    Rethinking your city’s approach to financing partnerships

How is innovation funded here?

Like 81% of cities surveyed, Wellington has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Higher levels of government
Municipal budget
Municipal budget
This could include, for instance, City Council approved funds; operating budget; a special funding process (bond, Mayoral special initiative funding, etc.); and participatory budgeting / citizen-selected budgeting.
Non-financial resources
Non-financial resources
This could include staff on loan and/or other in-kind contributions (e.g. materials, infrastructure…)

Activities being funded

Launching or sustaining a project
Investing in digital systems
Paying for services
Investing in physical infrastructure
47 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
79 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
51 cities
Investing in digital systems
36 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
30 cities
Paying for services

How is innovation measured?

Wellington has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations.

To improve data use, the city has also developed partnerships with the private sector, academia and think tanks to collect and analyze data, as well as with other cities.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development

Housing and built environment


Environment and climate change

Social inclusion and equity

Insufficient data

Waste and sewage

Digital governance

No Response

Policing and law enforcement


Labour market and skills



Public works