Cities: Wellington, or Dunedin?

I doubt the Dunedin stadium’s pulling power in attracting new residents. It’s ugly, it’s essentially redundant and its intimidating bulk will hinder people-friendly development of the surrounding area. –Meg Davidson

### ODT Online Mon, 27 Sep 2010
Let us, too, become the city of the verb, not expletive
By Meg Davidson
Dunedin resident Meg Davidson laments opportunities lost and asks if the city could follow Wellington’s lead.
Last month my daughter was lost to Dunedin. I was with her in Wellington, the new object of her affections, when she was seduced and I, a passionate Dunedinite, was seized by the same unexpected delight in the city I hadn’t visited for three decades.
Read more


We’re almost there, inside our final year – and nothing our dwindling band of critics say will deflect us from our primary purpose: to deliver, on time, on budget and fit for purpose, New Zealand’s first roofed, multipurpose performance venue and something all can be proud of. –Malcolm Farry

### ODT Online Mon, 27 Sep 2010
Something we can all be proud of
By Malcolm Farry
Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry reflects on the journey towards building the “the best stadium in New Zealand”.
When I was asked in 2004 to lead an investigation into an upgrade for Carisbrook, the challenge was to investigate and recommend the best option that would produce most benefits to Dunedin and the region.
Read more

● Malcolm Farry is the chairman of Carisbrook Stadium Charitable Trust.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, CST, Democracy, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Innovation, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums, Tourism, Town planning, Urban design, What stadium

27 responses to “Cities: Wellington, or Dunedin?

  1. Peter

    This is another ‘everything in the garden is rosy’ piece from Malcolm Farry and ‘look at what we have achieved.’ Of course he blithely ignores the stadium and city wide debt to achieve HIS vision and, once again, repeats the ‘on time and on budget’ mantra. Interesting how he puts ‘me’ at the beginning of his story and repeats it. He was ‘called’ to the job as CST Chairman, we are reminded. Ego? Lo and behold, we have the multi purpose claim resurrected after a break. Why the urgency to complete the stadium before the RWC if that is the case? It has always been a rugby stadium.
    Dwindling band of critics? In his dreams. By the next election the stadium will still be there as a weeping sore as it becomes clearer what a financial black hole the stadium is. It now seems likely there will be a majority on council which will continue to spend ratepayer money on the stadium ‘to make it work’. Cost blow outs and operating loses – maintenance, depreciation and interest – all totally adding up to approximately $30m pa – will make the next council even more unpopular than this one because they should have known better. Say if the next council is able to save $20m through its own cost cutting measures, this will easily be sucked up by the stadium. This will inevitably concertina to cuts being made elsewhere ‘to make the stadium work’.

  2. UglyBob

    I’m not quite sure which Wellington Meg Davidson is looking at. Certainly it’s not the city/region that built Westpac Stadium in recent times (which remains a charge on GWRC rates) nor reflective of a city council that has no compunction whatsoever (for better or for worse) with a changing urban environment. There are plenty of battles here over the likes of Waitangi Park, waterfront development, Manners Mall, Marine Centres, flyovers at the Basin Reserve etc although in general Wellingtonians seem more receptive to the new than Dunedinites. Definitely an opinion piece that seems a case of rose tinted glasses, grass is greener syndrome.

  3. Elizabeth

    Every time I visit Wellington I’m impressed, for my own reasons. Cities aren’t about no arguments. Sometimes a fresh look at something is a powerful and pleasant surprise. I go with Meg’s comments about Dunedin’s scruffiness though. Rubbish everywhere. In the tertiary campus area there are landlords with large property holdings that don’t put the work or supervision in – and the commercial property managers seem oblivious to the task their fees indicate. Behaviour continues to be a problem in the CBD and campus due to the availability of cheap alcohol, and falling standards across society… what to do.

  4. UglyBob

    Elizabeth: it’s reflective of the drivers behind the respective local economies isn’t it? Wellington has a large number of well paid public servants and even more handsomely paid consultants. The vibrancy of central Wellington is based on that level of discretionary income (it creates a market for inner city apartments, bars, restaurants) as well as the concentration of a large number of office/retail workers in the CBD.

    People tend to forget that in the 1980s Wellington was viewed by the rest of the country as a dour wind swept city populated by grey civil servants – Sir Michael Fowler’s dreams of skyscrapers, Te Papa, the Stadium, the Wellington Street Race, the development of bars in Courtney Place paved the way for Wellington as a place to visit. The model in some ways is not dissimilar to the “vision” surrounding the Dunedin stadium.

    As a student city, Dunedin is unique in NZ with its concentration of youth in the northend of the city. I agree more should be done with street cleaning and maintenance of flats by landlords. The concentration of young people also highlights social problems. Where in Wellington, the student body is largely dispersed or partially integrated with other residents – suburbs like Kelburn, Aro Valley etc are a mixture of the well heeled and the students – in Dunedin it can be more in your face. But I don’t think those issues are just Dunedin ones: check out Courtney Place on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see messiness to match anywhere in the country.

  5. David M

    Wellington alternately impresses and repels me. I was up there last week and saw (from a good vantage point in Khandallah) the new signage on the Westpac Stadium. It is visible from so many kilometres away that it not only brands the stadium, but the entire city. I hope the Forsyth Barr signage will be less ‘in your face’.

    • Elizabeth

      Wouldn’t it be terrific fun to do a city / district wide survey on the stadium about now !?

      Those I know who didn’t support the stadium on ‘grounds’ of cost to residents when it was given the go-ahead by DCC remain of the same view today, but MORE SO. Especially since the overall cost has multiplied, and has impacted hard on council companies. With the specific sharks in the book having taken their trumped up profits from land sales – as applies to land owners in the stadium area as well as ORFU (with debts cleared too).

      It really has been a frightfully glorious time, Malcolm. However, are you absolutely sure we critics have dwindled in number? I’m thinking not.

      And poor Mr Chin is marched out on the plank ready to be eaten.

      Such an excellent sunny day in Dunedin!

  6. Peter

    Given that Malcolm is thrilled to bits with the magnitude of the private sector funding ‘raised’ (promises only) we can take him at his word that it will be no sweat to raise private sector money for his cutely named ’embellishments’.
    He has always said he is ‘delivering a stadium’ and it is up to us what we want to do with it. We are ‘only limited by our imaginations’. For example, his hilarious, and exhaustive, brainstorm ideas list in the CST Feasibility Report 2007 will fortunately give us a wealth of ideas to draw on ‘to make the stadium work’. (A shame the rest of the report and the peer reviews said the stadium was high risk. Basically- a dud idea.)
    Never mind, by this time next year the stadium will be handed over – delivered – to us the ratepayers to make it a success. Thanks.

  7. Anne

    Malcolm Ferry can only speak for himself, not “we” and “all.” Personally, I don’t plan to ever set foot in the stadium.

    The “private fundraising” that Mr Ferry is so pleased about is nothing to do with fundraising. He is talking about advance sales – revenue that will not be available in the years of these seating contracts.

    As for “the CST has followed its clearly stated and agreed plans”, I have lost count of the DCC’s ‘lines in the sand’ which the majority of councillors have been happy for the CST to pass unfulfilled.

    Mr Ferry’s opinion piece is a “fascinating fabrication”, a jolly good yarn which is much needed at this particular time of local body elections.

  8. Peter

    Yes, it was a lovely story, Anne.
    He was only doing a job, as he says, and it was the councillors who made the final decision – but based on his advice, and that of his ‘experts’, who would never build stadiums which could possibly fall to bits financially or structurally.

  9. Meg Meg Meg,

    the blinkers you have for WGTN are quite impressive. Shall I say just leave the rose tinted glasses on when you come back to dunner and all will be well.

    I can speak with considerable experience. Born and raised in CHCH, started my working career and lived in Wgtn for 9 years and then have latterly spent over a decade in Dunedin.

    The Wgtn I know and love is every bit dirty and gritty as Dunners.

    Yes it’s enchanting – but that’s purely and simply down to the demographics of the inner city, and a process that has taken over 25 years. Every other person you meet in an inner city pub or cafe is from out of town, working like mad, no kids and all of the disposable income in the world to shower on the Theatre, Cafe Culture and other wonderfully hedonistic pursuits. Dunedin (as ever other town and city does) bleeds it’s young to that city. They work exceedingly hard by day, dine and party all night long and spend every treasured moment of every weekend parading up and down the waterfront from Shed 2 through to the Swimming Baths in an orderly manner seen in Victorian postcards. Heck I even had a flat mate who was so scared not to be seen out of a suit at a cafe on the weekends just in case his boss was there.

    Of course Dunedin is different to Wgtn, of course I’d love to see grotty old sheds turned into wonderful art galleries and cafes or swanky restaurants. But then we just don’t have that sort of population. Bloody hell it’s hard enough prizing hard earned money out of the good people of Dunedin as it is, let along get them to build a park along our waterfront, lined with concrete poetry and other whimsical delights.

    Then there’s the wee unfair advantage of having the seat of government in that city. More money comes from that establishment than one could humanly imagine, not to mention each and every one of the Embassy’s, head offices etc. They all wine and dine, they all play hard and relax even harder. Dunedin just ins’t that sort of city, nor is Auk nor CHCH or Hamilton or Tauranga. Wgtn is an anomaly among the NZ urban ranks.

    As my restauranteur buddy said, if you can’t make money feeding the faces of these ‘fat’ (metaphorical) bastards you have no place being in business in Wgtn. And he was right, he even opened a Cuban cafe complete with imported cigars as a bet and it was an outrageous success.

    I do love the references to the stadium back here though. Funny so much of that language was the very same language I heard everyday in Wgtn as Te Papa was being developed. People seem to think that place was a unanimous success, it wasn’t. The division and derision it cause before and even long after it opened is conveniently missed by Meg. I even remember the protests. People bemoaned how much of the councils money it took, how much time and effort and at what cost to other activities or planned improvements. Funny the same discussions are still taking place around The Overseas terminal.

    The rose tinted glasses really didn’t look too hard did they. I know of so many rotten damp dark flats in the Aro Valley, Newtown. Each and everyone of these slum lord flats would give Dunners a run for it’s money. Nice to see Meg paid a visit out to Wellington’s Sth Dunedin – Petone and Tawa. The state house lined streets are the mirror of any of ours. The ugly Aluminium window replacements aren’t the domain of Dunners exclusively.

    While I’m at it. Wgtn isn’t short of knocking down old (and quite frankly perfectly good buildings) for the sake of it. My parents dining table is testament to that, made of the recycled Matai flooring from the old Radio NZ house next to the Beehive, knocked down for a car park and an empty lot. Myself and every other woodworker in Wgtn had just two nights to salvage as much as we could from the waste heap before a perfectly good, indeed a bloody fantastic building was confined to the landfill.

    I’ve seen huge historic buildings demoed in the likes of Newtown, Aro Valley etc for motorways and tilt-slab retail buildings.

    Wgtn is every bit a woeful tale of hap hazard development and destruction as Dunedin is. It is true that it is also a tale of carefully planned development and some stunning design. But lets be very bloody clear about this. Folk thought for years and years that Frank Kits park was an embarrassment and that there is no way folk would want to prance around the inner city harbour. it was a gradual (well over a decade) thing, bit by bit. the establishment of a cafe here and there, a trendy bar, then of course the introduction of Te Papa. Waitangi Park is only a very recent development in the time frame that is the urban design environment of Wgtn.

    Wgtn not only had Te Papa to contend with, but they’ve also built a bloody stadium. And the effect that has had on that part of town has been immense too. But then also there were the critics of that “costs too much”, “will tie up money for too long”, “debt’s too high”…

    Right gloves off.

    I am sick and bloody tired of folk trying to compare apples with apricots. Wgtn is a beautiful city for sure. But try walking down Manners Mall in the middle of the night and think you are safe. Ask the significant homeless population begging on the streets what they think of the WCC. Try relying on the (at times wonderful) train system to get you to work on time every day. Add to that, try getting across town from say the Hospital to Thorndon in anything less than 3/4hr at rush hour time. I can drive from the bloody peninsula to work when I bloody well please, twice the distance in less than 15mins.

    Try playing netball on Haitaitai courts in the howling southerly. Or you could play indoors at Edgar Stadium.

    You could walk endlessly up and down hills to get to your uni classes, or you could stroll around Otago campus.

    Try playing cricket/football on anything that even slightly resembles The Oval here in Dunedin.

    Wgtn is encircled with a stunning Green Belt – oh lookie here, Dunedin has an equally stunning Green Belt. They have a bird sanctuary, we have a world class eco sanctuary. They have Mt Vic, we have Mt Cargill.

    They have an inner city Botanical Gardens, we have a stunning inner city botanical gardens.

    We have Portsmouth Molars, they have that joke of a water fountain in Manners Mall.

    We have ‘Chin’ they had a bloody drunk!

    They have a rugby team equally as brilliant and frustrating as Otago does – with similar successes.

    They have Mt Vic for mountain biking, we have the hills behind Logan Park and of course Whare Flats. We have world class surf beaches. We have unique attractions like the Albatross Colony & Penguins on the peninsula.

    They have Weta Workshops – wow where did that money come from but Hollywood Moguls – a completely artificial entity propped up buy the genius and luck of one individual. We have 2 world class Television and multimedia facilities to match that, built from the ground up be two equally determined and talented individuals (with teams around them).

    Yes there are a huge number of things we could do to make this a more liveable city, but then again, there are VERY FEW cities in NZ where one good family income will see you do very well as is the case here in Dunedin. The simple fact of the matter is, if we were living in Wgtn with kids, we’d both have to be working full time jobs, the kids wouldn’t be in Kindy but expensive long hrs of day care, our family time would be short sharp weekends. Dunedin is a wonderful place to bring up kids.

    Don’t forget Wgtn isn’t the small confined demographically skewered entity defined by watery boundaries and a fault line. It’s Petone, Lower & Upper Hutt. It’s Johnsonville & Tawa. It’s Porirua & Wainuiomata. Just as Dunedin isn’t just the Inner City suburbs and a bloody stadium.

    I’ve had the immense pleasure of living in possibly the most liveable city in the world Vancouver off and on for over a decade. I’d be bloody arrogant and ignorant to come back from there each time and compare the two cities to each other (although the similarities are alarming).

    Yes Dunedin can improve, but in what is again a none too thinly veiled attack on the stadium, I shake my head in despair at the arrogance and ignorance of this piece by Meg.

    Edit: Railway stations. Don’t forget the bloody railway stations. Every try chilling out at Wgtn Railway station in a howling southerly with hundreds of commuters all hurriedly scurrying about the place. Oh yeah, that’s right we have possibly the most beautiful railway station in the southern hemisphere – with a short stroll away a world class heritage museum and a stunning, simply stunning Chinese Gardens. LMAO – Wgtn Railway station – please.

  10. Stu

    Wellington’s idea of free wi-fi is an access point on the top floor of TradeMe’s building (post feedback: would login again). Dunedin is about to get something…quite different…

  11. Boy I could go on for bloody hours, the arrogance of this stupid little article.

    I keep editing and adding to, in defence of Dunedin.

  12. Anne

    Yes, I notice that Paul not only could go on for hours but, indeed, can. It’s the sort of post few will read because of (1) its sheer length, and (2) the startling introductory salutation.

    Thanks, Meg, for a passionate report on Wellington and some home truths about Dunedin.

    • Elizabeth

      Whether there should be or not, there’s a difference in how you perceive a city after a thirty-year absence, and there’s a difference in how you see it as a visitor or a resident… it’s all about time.

      However, each time I go to Wellington I want to know more.

      To be honest I’m pretty much done with Dunedin, not much new to “see”, but lots of new and re-found approaches to the greater city and connections with the Otago Southland region to think about, explore and action.

      And yet here we are, with a city council held captive financially by a dull stadium building that isn’t a very good idea, or is possibly the worst wrongfully positioned idea we’ve had foisted on a small population that can’t afford it.

      The brilliance of our sheepdom in allowing it to happen is one of my largest cringe moments in contemplating Dunedin’s time and place.

      Hateful hateful hateful


  13. So Anne, which part of Meg’s woefully inaccurate comparison of the two cities struck you as the slightest bit relevant.

    My equally passioned rebuttal could have gone on twice as long, for the inaccuracies of her ‘trip to wgtn’ were so numerous as the be frankly bloody laughable.

    Go on give me one example.

    Te Papa – that divided the city indeed the nation when that was mooted and developed.

    Manners Mall, they still don’t know what they are doing with that, some love it, some hate it.

    Try living in the inner city with kids on one income in Wgtn, you can here.

    Come on Anne, where was she bang on! It was awful god dam it, bloody awful.

    Every town has home truths, even my bloody beloved Vancouver has a thing called the Lower Eastside. The human depravity and flotsam there would rival any Hollywood beat-up. The violence, the open drug use, the prostitution and crime, the absolute depravity of it all. But then Vancouver is more than that, isn’t it.

    Come on Anne, some of these Home truths please, and I’ll be buggered if I couldn’t find a similar example in her Yellow Brick Capital.

  14. Funny I first visited Dunedin in the late 1980s. A dirtier, dead, dank city one could hope to find. 3o years on this place is so vastly different as to hold not only my attention but I choose to bring up a family here. The two Dunedin’s are just so vastly different now, one could hardly believe they are the same place.

    Ditto Wgtn. Crashing into Wgtn a seasick student in the late 1980s was EXACTLY like walking onto the set of Gliding On. Awful just bloody awful. Fast Forward to 2010 Wgtn, yes delightful – but as outlined above, not without its failings, good fortune and distinct advantages.

    Remember councils change and leaders change, but distinct economic advantages such as the seat of Government, Political Embassies and multinational head offices are things Dunedin was never going to be able to compete with.

  15. kate

    Paul are you sure Dunedin changed – maybe you changed too – my children often talk about wanting a new house, new furniture new things, but I know when they grow up they will also appreciate more the craftsmanship of the old house we live in, our handcrafted furniture and will be comfortable in the familiar.

  16. kate

    It will be interesting to see what Meg’s Katie says in a year’s time

    • Elizabeth

      Good question Kate, what will Katie think…

      Dunedin’s not my home town, Waikouaiti is – or more particularly Waikouaiti farmland was, being that the town or city nearby was felt to be incidental during my growing up years… so yes indeed, it is down to the old house… in the old hills… close to the great white sand beaches…

      Meg finds Wellington a breath of fresh air. Metropolitan Dunedin has never done that for me – I know it too well, although I always quite liked the view coming down the northern motorway by night or by day (my ‘tourist’, thank-god-not-staying behaviour).

      Dunedin is familiar, not shaken, or stirred. Left as soon as I possibly could after doing architecture intermediate here. Came back ten years later when the place was ‘tipping’, as Paul mentions. And now I’ve brought my (not young) family here. I’m not sure that they thank me… but when a city like Dunedin, and ‘the times’, pull ‘the village’ out of the townships around it, what do you do for easy living? Frankly, it beats you: you join it. Love hate. And desperation.

      Yeah, Dunedin is a reasonably comfortable place to be. It has some quality but it is So not living up to its potential. It’s inward looking and doesn’t appear to know how to diversify sufficiently well – in ways that create [many] jobs for export production that exist ‘after’ university… It’s a crime. Then someone dumps an expensive hothouse next to the university and will shove rugby balls inside – or wants to add another building alongside to house elite rugby training and administration.

      I mean, see the freaking poor picture. Even if it was multipurpose, the stadium on the recycling dollar doesn’t create LOTS of employment for the widest possible denomination of the locals. It’s limited, cosseted and based on scandalous disregard for community sustainability. In essence: backward.

      And this is local body election year.


      To me, much of the university is the albatross around the citizen’s necks long-term, unless university management starts to believe in what is noble and good within some of its ivy alcoves, where real entrepreneurial behaviour is not confined to medical research and its applications.

      For the university to up its rankings (which I might add are slipping here and there) it needs to be in the centre of a properous and astutely diverse city, and southern region.

      Some things are dawning. Stu will fill us in tomorrow… It’s the approaches to smart investment and new ways of seeing “this place” that definitely keep me interested.

  17. Couldn’t agree more Kate. The Paul who famously slept under the pool table of the Gardies Pub in 1987 would never in a million years have thought he’d be bringing up a family in Dunedin.

    Then again the Paul who declared in the middle of the Royal Ballet break-up that he wouldn’t live in any other city than Wgtn – would never in a million years have believed he’d find 4 other couples from that very same party living in Dunedin 2010!

  18. Stu

    Agree that the University is a puzzle to be unlocked. Old ideas of Town and Gown are dated. Polytech is a bigger driver of innovation and open ideas right now. Engagement with “the University” is very hard as that is a large and not coherent organisation.

    Innovation is on the fringes of Uni with places like the Distiller. That’s too much chaos for Uni spinoffs, more structure and for sure, more funding needed.

    I wouldn’t put a research park in town; I’d build it out by the new industrial park emerging along Dukes Road. Let the University gravitate there for engineering and tech disciplines long-term.

    Attract a big research lab like a Samsung or a Hitachi or (close your eyes, Stu) Huawei. Throw in $100 million out of UFB/CFH funding and build a FO datacentre that can make use of excess hydro power.

    Digital Strategy is the Waipori Fund of the 21st century.

    • Elizabeth

      A useful vision to strategise around, at last. Thanks Stu.
      You’re right, the friends and colleagues at Otago Polytechnic are the people to watch/build on/invest in… all I’ve heard for the last fortnight is would-be councillors extolling the virtues of town and gown (meaning University of Otago) but saying nothing concrete as to how we earn economic development dollars from that relationship(??).

      Mr Chin wants to import students from China – for what, just some fees? If he said he wants 100 incoming PhDs and Postdocs from India, China, wherever… to raise this new local industry development, he might’ve got another term. But sadly, not. It’s hard when you wear a post-professional suit all day.

      What I enjoyed the other day was hearing about Hillside Engineering with its huge number of apprentices in training… this includes the upskilling and trans-skilling of existing staff. We hope this workforce can afford to stay in Dunedin and apply their growing expertise widely within the engineering sector. How do we make this sustainable? It really is along the lines that Stu is suggesting.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Tue, 28 Sep 2010
        Digital strategy for Dunedin released
        By David Loughrey
        A list of 12 projects to develop a “Digital Dunedin” is part of the city’s digital strategy, confirmed at the final full council meeting before the election yesterday. The projects included developing a wireless network across the central city and outlying suburbs, a Dunedin city portal to integrate information in a single entity, and establishing a “computer club house” to provide digital access for those who could not access it. Some of the projects could cost up to $500,000, but not all are seen as council-led projects, and there is, as yet, no funding committed.
        Read more


        Report – Council – 27/09/2010 (PDF, 6.5 mb, new window)
        Dunedin City Digital Strategy

  19. David

    Paul says “Te Papa – that divided the city”

    But not because it was going to put them severely into debt for two decades meaning there was little else to spend on other community projects.

    We go into long term debt for a palace and it seems the main reason is because some people are concerned that other cities should envy us.

    The average household pays more towards it than the main beneficiaries, and the council totally failed to get the community behind it – in fact I don’t think they even tried to get the community behind it.

    I’ve never in my life felt more disillusioned with Dunedin and the direction it’s heading in.

    And sadly, I’m starting to not even care as much.

  20. Meg

    Paul, I’ve just read your reply to my article on ODT online. Why on earth have you spent a whole day getting your knickers in a twist about something I never did in the first place? I did not compare Wellington with Dunedin. I simply pointed out that there are some things Wellington does well and our leaders could learn a thing or two. Don’t you agree? Or do you think they’re perfect?

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