DScene: Dunedin needs “decisive leadership”

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### DScene 28 Nov 2012
DCC needs to shape up (page 7)
By Mike Houlahan
Land transactions under investigation, illegal road building, a debt mountain, monumental building projects, possible credit downgrades. No, not some obscure Balkan country or African military dictatorship, but our home town. There is a vociferous body of opinion that Dunedin is going to hell in a hand cart and events of recent weeks have done nothing to persuade them otherwise.

Delta’s land transactions coming under Audit Office investigation, and a damning court verdict – which has seen Dunedin City Council cop a six-figure court costs order over the State Highway 88 realignment – follow an auditor’s report trying to establish the final cost of building the Forsyth Barr Stadium, and a controversial bailout of the Otago Rugby Union.

A “we will fight them on the beaches” opinion piece from Mayor Dave Cull last week sounded desperate. The announcement soon after from Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services that it had revised its outlook of Dunedin City Council from stable to negative made it look desperate, too. A negative outlook means a one-in-three chance of a credit downgrade in the next two years – unwelcome news for a city well in hock before it borrowed millions more to build the stadium.

The agency does offer a ray of hope – if the DCC’s budgets strengthen, as forecast, its rating could revert to stable. But having just stated doubts the DCC could achieve the financial targets in its long-term plan, Standard and Poor’s are going to take a lot of convincing all is well.

In response, Cull – sounding like a rugby captain before a test – said Dunedin “was up to the challenge of continued financial belt-tightening.” Sadly, in this comparison Dunedin is probably Scotland rather than the All Blacks. Quiet reassurance is no longer enough. If ratepayers are to have faith in the DCC as chamberlains of their assets, they will want to see decisive leadership.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Business, DCC, DCHL, Economics, Media, Name, ORFU, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Sport, Stadiums, Town planning

11 responses to “DScene: Dunedin needs “decisive leadership”

  1. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Wed, 28 Nov 2012
    Central businesses fear loss of trade
    By Nigel Benson
    A plan for cruise-ship passengers to disembark at the Dunedin Railway Station has unsettled some central-city businesses. The move has been proposed by Auckland company Renaissance Tours, which is the largest provider of shuttle bus transport for cruise-ship passengers in Dunedin. The company believes the move would add to the experience passengers have in Dunedin and ease traffic congestion when cruise ships are visiting. Renaissance’s main Dunedin sub-contractor, Ritchies Coachlines, is backing the move and has raised the ante by suggesting the i-Site Visitor Centre be relocated to the railway station.
    Read more

    Ritchies is only saying what most people working on the Anzac Square – Queens Gardens heritage precinct have been saying for ages. Add to those all the people badly inconvenienced by the cruise-ship Octagon closures. The i-Site in Princes Street is seriously less than edifying – if they want to stay there, sort their appearance out and get DCC to remove the bus stops in the block (Octagon to Moray Place) thereby reducing offensive diesel fuel emissions – such a lovely environment as is, thanks to DCC the nearby quality retail spaces are emptying out….

  2. amanda

    Mr Houlahan, don’t you know how it works in Dunedin yet? The people who benefitted from the city taking on massive debt are happy and have made an absolute fiscal killing, so what does it matter if this means rates rises, service cuts or a financial meltdown for the rest us, ‘us people’ who have made poor choices (for example, did not buy land where the stadium will be built?). The important people have benefitted, and that is all the stadium was ever about. But thanks for at least acknowledging the consequences; the next step is to go a wee bit further and name people responsible, oh I don’t know, like which councillors pushed for the stadium build. Voters need to know who on council are responsible for the massive debt; their names are Crs HUDSON, BROWN, ACKLIN, WEATHERALL, COLLINS, NOONE, and BEZETT. They hold the majority on council and have gone all quiet on their hand in the fiscal meltdown the city is in, funny huh?

  3. Anonymous

    Further to Dunedin needing strong leadership and a Twitter update, is anyone else noticing all the businesses closing around town and the peculiar situation where many of those closures are being replaced with the equivalent of a “dollar shop”? I struggle to understand how these stores can be so easily birthed or be any more successful than a medium to long-term business which has already suffered from the competition, high out-goings and low markups.

    Surely they are just fronts for some other backroom dodgy-as goings on? Can’t be Rugby World Cup paraphernalia alone, the Warehouse already has the knocked-down specials for that crap.


    • Elizabeth

      Yesterday: Jobs growth rate declines in Otago
      Employment growth in Otago had the largest decline of any region in the country in the past three months, undermining other economic gains.
      Of the 16 regional council areas in the quarterly ASB economic scoreboard released yesterday, Otago’s employment growth was down 9%, compared to a no-change 0% national average.

    • Elizabeth

      Anonymous, I have noticed that many of the so-called “dollar shop” male store mangers (owners?) are on computer all day on the shop floor, not for the purpose of computer games… amazing what you can shove in a shipping container these days – ask Port Otago’s security detail and X-ray operators.

      [This one hit the bigtime in May 2009, a lot of other nasties have turned up since:
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10570635 ]

    • Elizabeth

      Anonymous, I have noticed that many of the so-called “dollar shop” male store mangers (owners?) are on computer all day on the shop floor, not for the purpose of computer games… amazing what you can shove in a shipping container these days – ask Port Otago’s security detail and the xray-scan operators on the wharf.

  4. Anonymous

    Go to that story and you are presented with the one and only Working It Out blog “Being faithful to your employer”. Personally I think the ODT should pull down that bit of Stakeholder crud because it reads like the paper has zero sympathy for all of the job losses it reports. Or doesn’t report.

  5. BillyBob

    Wrong Dunedin Anonymous. That one is in Florida. I presume you do realise that?

  6. Anonymous

    It does seem to be the new customer service norm for some of the dollar shops and a few of the smaller businesses that have popped up. They stare at the monitor – usually Facebook or Trademe or an equivalent – until you’re standing in front of them. I assume they are staff, low paid and disinterested. That and my quip about other goings-on are just generalisations. But the ‘back office business’ wouldn’t surprise me.

    What continues to surprise me is how a new business can operate with the same or similar out-goings (which are extraordinarily high in central) unlike the established businesses before them. If it is their own capital then it probably makes start-up appear more possible. If it is a business loan, I bet the bank has a formula for lending the money and how much they get back if the business does not continue. Part of that will be evaluating similar businesses which have started and closed in the same location.

    It seems that central and mainstreet businesses start-up with great enthusiasm but are closing more quickly than before. There’s just that feeling I’ve seen several similar shops open and close in the same locations.

  7. Hype O'Thermia

    There are some long-lasting ones but others come and go, moving to new premises. My guess is that they negotiate cheap rent, probably with a very short period of notice so the building owner can get some income but quickly move them out if the chance comes along for a stronger tenant, or to sell or refurbish the property.
    Insurance claim stock (rescued from fire, damaged container etc), cancelled orders and bankruptcy sales provide some of the stock, and this is not just NZ-sourced. Then there is incredibly cheap crap made for Incredibly Cheap Craps R Us. Large numbers, small mark-up, quick turnover.

  8. Hype O'Thermia

    OK folks, the Sunday brain-teaser, translate this into the DCC / Tartan setting:
    “The grandiloquent NZ First leader wickedly calls Whanau Ora a “bro-ocracy”, a “touchy-feely slush fund” and “a circus with no accountability”. Yet, when called on to defend her policy baby, Turia rarely fronts up.”

    Wasn’t difficult, was it?

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