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Tauranga City Council:
Measuring city progress to sustainable development

How can a city measure its progress towards sustainable development? 

Tauranga City Council partnered with Proxima to develop a methodology for assessing sustainable development and integrated planning.  Using the Thriving Cities Portraits framework as a foundation, we developed a comprehensive suite of success indicators to evaluate the full range of council policies and programmes against a benchmark of sustainable progress.  The stocktake not only provided a current state assessment of the city's progress; but highlighted gaps and next steps for further progress. 


In the bustling city of Tauranga, New Zealand's 5th largest and fastest-growing urban area, city leaders faced a critical question: how can a city truly measure its progress towards sustainable development?

Tauranga City Council (TCC) partnered with Proxima on this pioneering project to develop a stocktake methodology to assess sustainable development and integrated planning. The final stocktake, along with the full range of sustainability indicators developed to carry it out, is publicly available as a resource for others to draw from.

Insight #1: Unveiling holistic perspectives

The stocktake carried out a comprehensive sustainability performance assessment covering all council activities.  This provided TCC with profound insights into achievements, shortcomings, and untapped opportunities. This work was both enlightening and challenging, driving teams to confront reality while unveiling pathways for enhancement.

Insight #2: Creating Sustainable Health Indicators as thresholds for authentic sustainability

The pivotal task of measuring sustainable performance for each activity area was a significant undertaking. With reference to various frameworks, the Thriving Cities Portraits framework stood out as a guide, facilitating a set of holistic sustainability categories. Proxima took on the task of crafting an exhaustive set of health indicators that set out a measurable threshold of sustainability for each area.

Insight #3: Overcoming the legacy of siloed structures in local government

Prevailing council structures and planning approaches often promote siloed thinking, contrasting with the complexity of sustainability challenges that require integrated thinking. The Sustainability Stocktake, however, emerged as a valuable tool for TCC, to see alignment of work programs with specific sustainability success indicators, paving the way for more integrated and sustainable thinking in future.

Approach and outcomes

To address Tauranga's pursuit of genuine sustainability measurement, Proxima embraced the Thriving Cities initiative, a collaboration between C40 Cities, Doughnut Economics Action Lab and Circle Economy, rooted in a science-based approach (Planetary Boundaries and Biomimicry).

Recognizing its potential to incorporate science-based methodologies and societal needs, Proxima drew upon the framework to form a robust, tailored solution. Visually, this was complemented with a Māori perspective using the reinterpretation of the Doughnut by Teina Boasa-Dean and Juhi Shareef.  However, while Thriving Cities provided overarching themes, the development of comprehensive success indicators demanded deeper exploration.

Leveraging the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) and the Future-Fit Business Benchmark, Proxima formulated success definitions for each Thriving Cities theme, guided by principles of "What good looks like". The result provided a compass for future progress, encompassing not just immediate opportunities but also long-term development decisions.

Results and impact

The collaboration between Proxima and TCC delivered valuable outcomes:

Measurable performance: The stocktake findings illuminated Tauranga's strides toward a thriving and sustainable future, pinpointing areas of risk and opportunities for progress.

Planning Gaps: The approach identified gaps in TCC's sustainability strategies, which can inform improved planning for the future.

Shared Understanding: Themes and indicators fostered clarity on sustainability challenges and goals, empowering TCC to drive progress through cohesive programs.

Integrated Planning:  Separate council functions cut across sustainability themes which makes it challenging to achieve an integrated approach. This is an area all councils could improve, but it takes courage to challenge siloes.

Local Relevance: While international frameworks provided a foundation, tailoring to local circumstances was vital to ensure alignment with Aotearoa New Zealand's cultural context and Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles.


By embracing Thriving Cities and harnessing science-based evaluations of genuine sustainable development, TCC has unearthed a pathway towards more authentic sustainability. The Stocktake, a public document, stands as a resource for other councils, informing their own evaluations and benchmarks while collectively driving the cause of progress towards sustainability for our communities.

"Proxima addressed sustainability in terms that everyone in our organisation could understand. They helped us see what we were already doing well and what we could build on, as well as where the gaps were. Not only that they helped provide clear implementation ideas and supported through. The Proxima team went above and beyond and our people got a lot out of sessions with them. They really helped us understand the concepts and catapulted our journey."

Sam Fellows - Tauranga City Council Manager: Legal, Risk and Procurement

Sam Fellows_edited
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