In response to Jolyon Manning

From the “Open Letter from Jolyon Manning” on the StS website

Jolyon Manning has voiced his opposition to the stadium development. He has a wealth of experience and expertise in community developments in the Otago Region. However this does not mean that his opposition is flawless or unquestionable. I have taken the time to respond to his concerns and issues raised.

He starts with the point “Dunedin is richly blessed with unique community assets of cultural heritage and natural beauty”. Indeed this is true, but this does not preclude development outside of tradition, as suggested by Manning.

He sites so called break down in linkages with the farming hinterland and tourist centres as if these are irreversible trends. As for the loss of employment intensive manufacturing, this may be true for some high profile businesses, the evolving nature of business in Dunedin has seen the rise of other industry, none the least employment intensive service industries. But again this is not an irreversible trend, and while it is true that some heavy industry will be lost forever, there will always be opportunities for other commercial ventures. I would like to know what exactly he means by “weak linkage with the centre of the New Zealand tourism sector”. Is he thinking of Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland? It could be easily argued that with the likes of the Taieri Train, the Otago Rail Trail and the improved International Air Port, the importance of Dunedin as a feeder town to the destinations of Central Otago have never been so important, and can only improve on this in the future.

The analysis of the position of the University of Otago is somewhat astray, in that while it is true undergraduate numbers have levelled off, this has been a conscious decision The University has taken the strategic decision to leverage itself in the highly lucrative world of value added research, including the steps towards becoming the most prestigious post graduate facility in the country. This is where the serious research money and international standing comes from. This is what brings in highly valued researchers and lecturers, adding to the cultural and economic well being of the city.

It is a shame that Jolyon continues to look to the past for direction. The best thing the past can tell us, is where not to go wrong. We can not live in the past, and the city planner Malcolm Latham’s words of caution some 40 years ago, can only be cautionary at best. I would be surprised if anyone was operating business ventures based on models used some 40 years ago. Indeed some 40 years ago the theories of the Chicago School of Economics was starting to gain traction, advocating laissez-faire free markets, removal of government control and libertarianism which are the basis of the current economic crisis besetting the US this very moment. Today rather than “supporting export manufacturing” we should be fostering and supporting exceedingly valuable high end technologies (but not to the exclusion of the manufacturing already in the city). This could only come about by further investment from Central Government for infrastructure and policy. Recently we have seen a huge investment in this area from central govt (cautionary word for National voters, the investment fund which has been so successful is signalled to be abolished under them). Business in New Zealand has been infamous for it’s incredible lack of R&D, and it has been the role of central government to stimulate that. In the current global manufacturing climate, if Latham or indeed Manning think for one minute that New Zealand is able to compete with the industrial powerhouses of China, Asia and India, they are seriously lacking. Like it or not (and not withstanding the continued importance of primary agricultural industry), New Zealand is entering a phase of post industrial commercial activity, in which our biggest and most profitable companies are revolving around new technologies, not primary manufacturing.

I have no doubt that the pedigree of community and business involvement of Mr Manning places him well to comment, however this does not necessarily translate into absolute wisdom. His referencing of material from the likes of Drucker, Schwartz and Handy add nothing to the debate, as there is no evidence of the “memorable things to say in his book” which inform this debate. As for Prof Lynda Gratton’s Hot Spots, I have downloaded the first chapter (free from her website), and with all due respect, his analysis just doesn’t add up. From the introduction to Hot Spots

“You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energized and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas, and the people around you share your joy and excitement.” Again with all due respect, that is exactly how those of us in the community feel abut this project. This is also undoubtedly how those of us heading off to the first concert, rugby or football match will feel inside the stadium. There isn’t a stadium in the world I have been to where there isn’t a buzz or a rush, from Premier League football matches in North London and Liverpool, to Ice Hockey in Vancouver, Football in Chicago, Baseball in San Francisco, through to the likes of Van Morrison in Dublin and The Who at the Hollywood Bowl (or even the Rothco’s at the Tate) . The very nature of these events and locations has a joy and excitement that is the very essence of the entertainment industry.

But I took the time to dissect his cautionary equation.

Hot Spots = (Cooperative Mindset × Boundary Spanning × Igniting Purpose) × Productive Capacity

Co-operative Mindset is defined as “Emergence of a cooperative mindset depends on leaders’ attitudes toward cooperation and competition and their capacity and willingness to craft within the organization a sense of mutuality and collegiality”. Where is the evidence that this doesn’t exist within the CST at the moment or in the future. It could be argued that that there is a strong leadership willing and able to craft it’s organization.

Boundary Spanning is defined “is crucial to the capacity of a Hot Spot to create value through innovation. As you will see, working cooperatively in well established teams is important for the exchange of knowledge and for understanding what others know. However, the innovation of a Hot Spot arises when new ideas, from people in different groups and communities, are brought together.” I would argue that the very involvement and interaction of the CST, DCC, ORC and the University, not forgetting the wealth of collaborative knowledge that has been asked to design and build this stadium, would fit nicely within this idea of Boundary Spanning.

Igniting purpose is the effect of the coming together of those with the energy and drive that comes from “an igniting vision, question, or task.” For those of us wanting the stadium to proceed and indeed those involved that igniting task has been the very spark for a massive outpouring of energy for a single goal, to build a multi-purpose stadium in Dunedin.

Productive Capacity is created when the above elements “are capable of creating energy and excitement. For this energy to be channeled into productive outcomes requires the fourth element, productive capacity. This capacity is the extent to which members
within the Hot Spot are capable of working together in a productive manner.” It would be hard to argue that those seeking to see the dream of a stadium as not capable of working together.

I would assume that by suggesting that factions of the community don’t share this vision or dream of a new stadium, then these conditions can’t be met for a desirable ‘Hot Spot’. This is a flawed assumption.

I have always stated that if you feel the rate strain on the community is too great to bear, that is a valid and defendable value position. But to assume models of economic theory from the esteemed and learned apply to this development and thus should be heeded as caution, don’t stack up. I have also always maintained, that the stadium itself is the shell or vessel in which the sporting spectacle, entertainment or other activity will be housed, but that vessel is only going to be as good as the management team steering or driving the venture. If the management team fails to meet reasonable expectations, it is also reasonable to expect that team to be removed or reworked. Two modern examples of this can be found in the Rogers Centre in Toronto and the O2 Arena (old Millennium Dome) London. Both have been held up as cautionary examples by various members of the StS, however the StS has failed to mention that these two ventures have become two of the most important entertainment facilities in the Northern Hemispheres. The remarkable turn around from flawed and failed stadiums to leading lights of the entertainment industry has been down purely and simply to management.

For Manning to assume that this venture is failed because of the theorists he mentioned is assuming too little of those driving the project. From where I sit, they have engaged the very best of every area of expertise from Turf Management, Architectural and Engineering expertise, not to mention the plethora of other experts called upon.

To Quote Manning “Think about that…” I have and taken the time to, it still stacks up. Manning also plays the disingenuous card of the dominating nature of the stadium (or the opportunity lost factor). Various autonomous members of the StS have from time to time played this card too, drinking water and sewage outfall but to name a few. These are still projects which are going to go ahead or are in the process of completion. There is no opportunity lost with this venture with regard to these red herrings posed. Assuming that the ‘Hot Spot’ factor might actually work for a minute, then the economic, social and cultural well being of the city will be safe guarded.

Sorry for the long post. But to be fair to Manning, if he is willing to take the time to construct such a piece, I felt it would be seen as arrogance or flippancy to post a short piece stating my differing opinion.

Manning could do very well to read the exceptional book “City Making in Paradise” by Mike Harcourt and Ken Cameron (http://www.urbanvancouver.com/tag/ken-cameron), in which the city planners of possibly the most liveable city in the world, saved their city from the ills besetting other North American cities. Advocating planned development alongside social and cultural imperatives and latterly sustainability. We could all learn so much from this.

Another book which sheds light on just why Vancouver is so successful as a city is Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination by Lance Berelowitz. Looking to the past as these books do offers as much insight as that offered by Manning and his planning career.

All I can say is that the city my two sons will inherit will be vastly different from that Jolyon Manning was active in. This is not a bad thing. In the years between being a student at Canterbury in the 1980s through to returning to this city to live and work, the transformation is astounding. The rise of the service and entertainment industry has been pivotal in the continual evolution of the cultural and social heritage of the city. I hope that the impact of the development of the stadium will continue to foster this change and growth of all sectors of this city. If done correctly it will.

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1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Economics, Inspiration, Stadiums, Town planning

One response to “In response to Jolyon Manning

  1. Peter Entwisle

    Paul said:

    ‘I would like to know what exactly he means by “weak linkage with the centre of the New Zealand tourism sector”. Is he thinking of Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland? It could be easily argued that with the likes of the Taieri Train, the Otago Rail Trail and the improved International Air Port, the importance of Dunedin as a feeder town to the destinations of Central Otago have never been so important, and can only improve on this in the future.’

    What Jolyon is talking about are the poor land communications between Dunedin and Central Otago.

    I drove from Dunedin to Alexandra on Sunday (and there talked to Jolyon) and went by the most used route from Milton through Lawrence and Roxburgh. I first went that way in the 1950s and it really hasn’t changed much in all that time. It’s slow and very winding. So is the road from Cromwell to Queenstown.

    By comparison state highway 1 from Dunedin south past Milton has been transformed. It used to be flood prone and was very winding and you couldn’t overtake the trucks lumbering along it. Now it’s a steady 100kph all the way and overtaking slower vehicles is easy. And it’s flood-free. The road through the Cromwell Gorge has also been transformed – courtesy of the Clyde high dam – but it’s only a small part of the whole road from Dunedin to Queenstown, the premier tourist resort round here.

    In the same time – I mean since the 1950s – the railway from Milton to Roxburgh has been removed as has the railway from Middlemarch to Cromwell.

    Quite a few years ago Jolyon advocated forming a new direct road from Dunedin to Alex, over the old Dunstan Trail which would be a fraction of the distance of the Lawrence route or the longer alternative one through Palmerston and Ranfurly.

    People weren’t interested but it would have fostered the Otago regional economy and probably still would. It’s this loss of land connections between Dunedin and its hinterland which Jolyon is concerned about. In twenty years’ time private cars may be a rarity, in which case the loss of the rail routes will be even more regrettable. Under present conditions the slow and circuitous roads to central are a significant brake on the regional economy.

    If you want to throw money around trying to improve that economy $91.4m, or $140m spent upgrading those roads would be a much more beneficial use of the money than spending it on the proposed Awatea Street stadium.

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