Motu has published studies examining the interactions of infrastructure, urban form and productivity. Some show the importance of agglomeration for city development and for levels of firm productivity. Others show that certain infrastructure investments raise productivity and/or amenity values within cities.

Issues of agglomeration and appropriate infrastructure investments were relevant to the question that the Resilient Urban Futures programme sought to answer: which potential urban futures would result in the most resilient, liveable, competitive cities? Researchers looked at three aspects:

1. Impact of transport links on urban development

The role of physical transport links, and their quality, in shaping patterns of urban development. Historical data relating to transport links and initial conditions (e.g. climate, existence of a harbour, etc.), coupled with spatial-econometrics modelling techniques, were used to determine the importance of key transport links, and potentially other physical and social infrastructure such as tertiary education infrastructure, in shaping the relative development of urban areas across New Zealand.

2. Role of broadband

What was the role of broadband, especially ultra-fast broadband, in shaping the modern urban environment through the location choice and performance of firms. This research used Statistics New Zealand unit record firm data on internet connectivity of firms, coupled with firm financial and productivity data from the Longitudinal Business Database, to test for the impacts of ultra-fast and standard broadband availability and adoption on firm location and performance. This extended previous published Motu work that showed productivity improvements for firms that were early adopters of broadband.

3. Nature of governance and planning in shaping future urban environments

This research drew on the transport and broadband work above, and other studies, to explore the nature of governance and planning in shaping future urban environments, with an emphasis on the upper half of the North Island.The researchers examined how NZ Inc. can improve planning, investment in and use of major transport and ultra-fast broadband links. They worked with policy agency, local authority and private sector contributors.