Thinly veiled attack?

Despite my differences and criticism of Jolyon Manning in the past, with his credentials I was looking forward to the Opinion piece in the ODT today.

That optimism lasted all of 1 paragraph, when of course the message was overshadowed with an attack on the Stadium Development.

But I was also under the assumption that this sort of forum was a platform to inform people, not to show how much you know. With the use of Malcom Latham’s “Our Kind of City” as a ‘must read’, it’s a heck of a shame that more emphasis wasn’t placed on explaining a little clearly what Latham was on about – many of us aren’t privy to this document.

That aside, I had difficulty with understanding what some of Manning’s criticisms actually are, or is it just another dig at the respective councils and the stadium decision. For instance, correctly he points to the decline of manufacturing to this city, while simultaneously praising and warning the growth of University. However it seems the only criticism that can be laid against the University is that it’s dependent on Central Government funding – and that’s a bad thing? Well yes it could be seen as such, but then what is the exporting manufacturing base dependent on, foreign currencies and foreign investment, and we’ve all seen how fickle these are over the last year. Borrowing sentimentality (which is often the want of Manning), there used to be a saying, nothing’s as secure as government money – and again the US could testify to this over the last year.

I feel that Manning is having difficulty with the changing role of Dunedin, a role that even 20 years ago many may not have foreseen.

“Projects must be developed within the financial resources of the community pursuant to a sound financial plan.”

Yes and No. Business is inherently risky, and often some of the greater risks reap some of the greatest rewards. I fear once again this is relying upon sentiment and a want for the way things were done, rather than any progressive forward thinking.

I do however agree whole heartedly that Dunedin needs to continue and/or develop and strengthen its linkages with the wider Otago region. But then that assumes some very basic ‘regional’ wide tied-to-location business models. Working in the industry that I am in, a strong economic development plan with the view to fostering business growth in Dunedin actually involves many foreign ties. Indeed one of the most successful local industries of late (film/television and multi-media development) just wouldn’t have been possible with the focus being very much on foreign markets. Yes Dunedin must engage the region, but that must then involve working towards a common goal of selling our wares to foreign markets.

I disagree that it’s unwise to expect the University to carry this city forward. Innovative thinking and new models of research and innovation can and must be at the forefront of the city and the University’s thinking. There has been much talk about evolving the University to a more research post graduate focus, the ‘elite’ University of New Zealand approach. This removes the reliance on Volume and provides very real and potentially lucrative revenue streams for the Uni and the city. To dismiss the future growth of the Uni outright is somewhat short sighted.

“And in any case, Dunedin needs to diversify its economy for social and cultural stability in the years ahead.”

Really, you don’t think this is happening now? Dunedin NOW and Dunedin 25 years ago, are possibly the most distantly related cousins one could imagine. Christchurch NOW and CHCH 25 years ago however are not different. Dunedin is evolving, and it seems that some are struggling with how this will play out in the future.

It is completely laughable to look at population growth post WWII as indicators as to how or what the city is achieving. Percentage increases in isolation are no indication whatsoever. Sure Tauranga has grown over 1000%, but then if you are starting from next to nothing any increase is going to be of a magnitude more fantastic looking. NO-ONE foresaw the massive immigration from Asia and the Pacific which has fuelled the growth in population of Auckland. AND NO the Auckland Super City model is nothing that Dunedin needs to look at, unless we are looking at it with incredibly sceptical and critical eyes. There are simply too many flaws in the model. If it was, Dunedin already is a Super City in this region, why haven’t we seen these growth patterns suggested with such a simplistic analysis. What has been the basis for these population growths, what were their starting points, and is population alone any indicator of economic health and well being? What is being achieved with said populations, is there real economic growth, or is it just population growth? To many unanswered assumptions painting a way too simplistic ‘paint-by-numbers’ economic portrait.

So I wasn’t surprised it started with a stadium rant – finished with a stadium jibe, but I was a little disappointed that the analysis and illumination of the so called ‘must read’ hand book was lacking. I’d question if at all we should be looking at said texts, surely the presumptions in which business is suggested to be fostered some 40 years ago are not what should be the foundations for apparently looking forward.

I fear the look ‘well forward’ sentiment is in words only, as I could only see looking ‘well backward’ as the basis for this article. And in the end, I fear it’s just another ‘look what I once knew, and oh yeah, that bloody stadium’.

For the full article read here at ODT

1 Comment

Filed under Economics, Geography, Hot air, Politics, Town planning

One response to “Thinly veiled attack?

  1. Elizabeth

    Paul, you’ve given a fair critique of the opinion piece. Was one book or one author ever the answer. No.

    Latham’s text is quoted by many of Dunedin’s old guard, including retired architects, retired planners, older local body politicians, and retired council staff. They seem to have undergone some sort of conversion. Whereas I have studiously AVOIDED the text while glancing at it occasionally. Not a text for we who trained or taught more recently in architecture, informed by poststructuralism (and a hell of a lot else internationally), and moved onwards/outwards to present day conundrums of architecture “as” urban design…

    That’s to say, Laytham (former City Planner) was not in the same league (then) as today’s mostly RMA-tutored locally-bred “resource management planners” – the suited people we see around us of no creative or coherent vision…who are pseudo lawyers, or in fact lawyers, with no design or envisioning skills whatsoever (although they have a foul propensity to push rural subdivision when they damned well know it’s not sustainable), because of their dependence on the legislated clause and its interpretation. The sort of people who earn their living by not being inspired by the actual “place” they are “planning” (what a misnomer), and are hell bent on achieving the next rungs up the ladder to quickly forget their er un-startling regional planning courses at University of Otago. Result: much staff turnover at Dunedin City Council’s planning department. Dear Jim hasn’t solved this matter for the length of his term in office, he may have added to the problem by insisting on being the ‘city planner’ as well as the Chief Executive. Never one to let go. It does this city harm.

    Back to Laytham, simply, I’m not into dusty books and dusty thoughts…

    Jolyon has restated and stated again his own ideas these last couple of years, including the opening up of a decent road through to Central to bring the regional outposts closer (Dunedin itself is an outpost). As an individual, Jolyon has some amazing vision, take for example his family home surrounds – an amazing asset, Jolendale Park, Alexandra. Link He’s a good person and dares to put his view, most often strongly, most often independently. There’s a halo of a bygone era (the old hat), but I will admit there are unique/marketable things about New Zealand that looking back refreshes and energises, and takes forward.

    Michael Hill, the jeweller (read ENTREPRENEUR), believes New Zealanders with the most potential were brought up on the land… “I think the core of this whole country is the farming community and the people who have been brought up on the land. They’re the people that have got the spirit and they’ve learnt about life the hard way. They’re not the people who look the flashest. They might be very ordinary looking, but they’ve got potential. If you can find that potential in people, you can do miracles.” Link

    I’m biased, I believe Mr Hill. And he’s not the only one thinking that. Why is Weta full of southern people…

    Jolyon shouldn’t, as you say Paul, keep referring to an old book – it’s not a popular bible. I think he’s well qualified to say Otago Southland needs more than “fancy stadiums”, and the region needs Dunedin as a “wealthy city with a diverse range of economically sustainable amenity and activity”. How could any of us think otherwise. Leave Laytham out of it, yes look to the University’s growing R&D and at the same time to city industry, the clusters, the rural economy’s diversification and development. Get smarter. Work cooperatively, cross the divides between disciplines, open up the economy.

    The stadium is the most unfortunate expensive distraction from what this economy should be doing.


    A better read for Otago Southland-ites? To start a wider reference library…
    Michael Hill’s new book Toughen Up is about surviving tough times.

    ### TVNZ News Published: 8:25AM Wednesday June 17, 2009
    Michael Hill – tough businessman
    Source: ONE News

    Michael Hill is many things – a jeweller, an entrepreneur, and definitely a doer and not just a talker.
    Video Link

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