Dunedin: “no-growth city”

Dunedin City Council critic Calvin Oaten, in a piece he has also sent to the mayor and incoming council, proposes the city should be run on a ”no-growth basis”.

### ODT Online Thu, 24 Oct 2013
Dunedin, no-growth city?
By Calvin Oaten
Maybe a good starting point would be to review some recent history. The health of any community is unarguably based on its financial stability and its leaders being fully mindful of the need to protect the citizens’ treasure, spending it wisely, and quietly maintaining and improving their wellbeing.
Has this been the priority of our leaders over time? Recently it seems not. In fact one sometimes wonders if there is any comprehension at all of what is meant by good governance and prudence.
When I look at the long-term annual plan of 2003-04 I found the city’s net debt was $53.463 million and was scheduled to peak in 2011-12 at $147.466 million. Looking at it 10 years later, the 2013-14 plan shows the debt at $270.290 million. If we include stadium debt of $146 million, this comes to a total of $416.290 million. So, an increase over 10 years of $362.82 million. Does that indicate financial prudence?
Oh, and we should not forget DCHL’s contribution to our malaise. It has been extorted and mismanaged to the point where it and the DCC’s combined consolidated debt amounts to about $623 million. As shareholders, this by extension is ours. Think about that.

Dunedin has been in a slow, inexorable decline, whether we acknowledge it or not.

The statistics demonstrate this clearly and concisely. The 1901 census shows Dunedin’s population was 70,000 while New Zealand’s was 815,862. We were 8.5% of that total. In 1921 we were 81,848 souls and New Zealand 1,284,873. We were 6.3% of that total. Then in 1936, 82,000, 1950, 91,200 and in 2006, 118,683. Meanwhile, New Zealand in 2013 is 4,480,182. We are just 2.64% of that. Put another way, in 105 years Dunedin grew by 69%, while the country grew by 450%.
Read more

Related Post and Comments:
20.10.13 Doh, low growth for Dunedin

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Business, Construction, DCC, DCHL, Economics, Media, Name, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums, Tourism, Town planning, Urban design

14 responses to “Dunedin: “no-growth city”

  1. Russell Garbutt

    Remember the previous Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago, Professor Sir David Skegg? He said that building the stadium would attract an additional 1000 students per annum. Who was it said that Dunedin’s population would be growing by 10,000 per annum under their economic development?

    These statements are nothing other than wishful thinking at best and lies at worst. But the bigger fools are those that believe them.

    • Talking up is a far from subtle art. Cull is going to do a lot of it in the next months. Forewarned.

      • Oh wait… DCC to have more public forums. Actually, all we want is for that little scrubber Cull to commit the council to transparency and accountability. Public ‘good ideas’ forums DCC-style are typically about speculative planning projects that increase council spending, and breeding halfwit ignore of mushrooming council liability.

        The mayor and councillors, new and of old, being unable to crackdown, through the Chief Executive, on highly questionable staff invention and management of make-work schemes (these being uplifted and promoted by carpenter Cull for his politically selfish edification) and cemented by such public forums.


  2. Anon1

    The Dunedin population growth areas shown by the latest census are the Taieri and lifestyle blocks around Waitati. Both are not known for their student populations, which does suggest some population growth in Dunedin based on non-tertiary activities. That is unless folks are going to argue it’s all displacement of permanent population to the city fringes.

  3. Anonymous

    Step 1 of this growth strategy should be: identify the carpetbaggers and drop them off at the city limits with a ticket to anywhere but here.

  4. My follow up letter to Mr Stedman’s response to my “No Growth” opinion piece was published today in a very abridged manner. The ODT have a knack of emasculating letters to the point where there is no point (if you get what I mean).

    Richard Stedman’s response to my article on Dunedin’s “no growth” points out that my extrapolations had missed the point of the central city’s decline. This may well be true, but in my research I took care to as near as possible, incorporate all the towns, boroughs and areas of the various censuses as are now incorporated into the modern day city of Dunedin. It was therefore not feasible to isolate what is now central Dunedin.

    However, the decline has been quite widespread throughout the area, such as the Mosgiel mill, Port Chalmers Shipping and engineering, Green Island’s freezing works and the cement industry. As well as the suburbs. Retail has been in a constantly evolving state both centrally and throughout. Notwithstanding, it is my contention that the decline has been pervasively insidious and continuing. It is the non recognition of these trends which I feel the councils and administrators of recent times have been guilty of.

    Steadfast pursuit of expensive projects aimed at making Dunedin somehow special have done little but bury it in debt. It is commonly felt that Dunedin is a difficult place to do business in, with controls, restrictions and costs of compliance frustrating and delaying opportunities for new developments. Surely, the most obvious reasons that would attract new or developing business enterprises would be to remove as many obstacles and costs as possible. This is the only way that growth and development can be attracted to Dunedin. Much is going for it.

    It is big enough to provide most amenities a small city needs, it is compact, where people can go to work and still go home for lunch. It doesn’t have the traffic gridlocks, despite the best efforts of our council to create them. Aucklanders would die for those opportunities.

    If Dunedin is to reverse this situation it must first address its overwhelming debt. This can only be achieved by putting a total cap on additional capital expenditure. Pay down as quickly as possible the debt to manageable levels by divesting all non essential assets such as non strategic properties. Restrict the continuous proliferation of such things as traffic lights, parking restrictions and costs, and stop pandering to minorities over efficient commercial, business and citizens’ needs. That is the only way that costs can be reduced to the point where we can demonstrate a point of difference to prospective newcomers and businesses. Quite simply, costs are the first consideration. Attractive features and lifestyles will only become apparent after arrival.

    This is what I meant when I sent that article to the Mayor and all councillors. The nil acknowledgment speaks volumes.

    • B.J.

      Calvin. To quote you. “Dunedin is a difficult place to do business in, with controls, restrictions and cost of compliance frustrating and delaying opportunities for new development.” Please explain, and give examples of your statement. Then we can debate the perceived notion that Dunedin is a difficult place to do business in.

  5. B.J. Look at the trends. That is what I am implying. If the city is not growing in line with the authorities’ aspirations then it it is axiomatic that costs rise, putting increased pressure on business to cover their overheads and turn a profit from a static market. You may be aware that our city fathers have over the last decade taken this city’s consolidated debt to some $623 million (admitted). Simple arithmetic will tell you that the servicing of this debt plus providing the essential services cannot be handled by just some 53,000 ratepayers without either heavy rate increases or increasing operating costs. We see that as we speak with ever increasing civic charges. Parking costs have risen dramatically in recent times, Building consent costs plus compliance costs have risen dramatically, forcing up overheads. All the time the DCC acts as though there is no problems for business, yet at the same time it laments the lack of growth. It is obvious from the high rate of turnover in premises that many operations falter. It is the market share that is difficult to capture in sufficient volume to offset the overheads. The city in its efforts to increase revenue moves into competitive business competing with its own ratepayers. Take the retail complex Wall St for an example. It is set up to force the competition to match what is in fact a false business model. It does not disclose its true revenue statements and claims returns on investment which are subsidised by such moves as disregarding the value of the land on which it is constructed. This is something which no private investor can get away with. It simply distorts the market place. There are the heavily indebted operations such as the Stadium, Settlers Museum, Town Hall Conference Centre, all placing a burden on the commercial businessess. It is this that I allude to when I say the city needs to seriously re-adjust its affairs and tailor its costs to meet the ability of the citizens to service and still remain an attractive place to encourage people to set up business in Dunedin with the ability to compete with and attract other people from elsewhere. That is the only way that genuine growth can happen. B.J., I have no idea whether you are in business or not. Also I don’t imply that there are no viable opportunities in Dunedin, just that it is limited, and is not helped in any way by simply increasing the indebtedness of a static city. Let’s hear your comments by all means. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be proved wrong.

  6. ### ODT Online Wed, 4 Dec 2013
    Dunedin ‘lagging behind’
    By Vaughan Elder
    Dunedin is poorer than New Zealand’s other major centres and its labour force is shrinking, census data released yesterday shows. The release of more detailed information about New Zealand and its regions yesterday comes after Statistics New Zealand released data in October showing Queenstown Lakes District had pushed Otago’s population beyond 200,000 for the first time.
    Read more

    Census reveals widening salary gap

    [ODT Supplies to the story, another link – not a good example…]
    Dunedin company has 128 earning $100,000-plus

    [The old chestnut]
    “Mr Christie and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the figures highlighted the importance of the city’s economic development strategy, which aimed to add 10,000 jobs and $10,000 in extra income per person in 10 years.” –ODT

  7. In today’s odt comments http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/284005/dunedin-lagging-behind#comment-50636
    kris says
    “….Always recognising success based on our present form of currency – money.
    Dunedin residents are not as concerned with money as their form of currency. There are many alternative lifestylers living here in Dunedin that prefer to live simply.”

    Overstating it a bit. But there’s a germ of truth, a suggestion of what might now be the best way for Dunedin to progress. Instead of going for the markers of “success” and “growth” that we have failed at, perhaps we should try to be an exciting little boutique city, attracting more of the tiny under-the-radar high earners that we’ve already got, earning overseas money while living here where you’re a few minutes away from other creative inventive “alt” people, it’s easy to meet them and to socialise with people from way outside one’s own line of work/interests and gain from other viewpoints. Minutes away from congenial people, not much more from quiet beaches and bush and countryside. Dunedin hasn’t been a mass-appeal city for a long, long time. Let’s accept that it’s unlikely to be about big manufacturing, big business, and get on with what makes it appeal to high-quality (if small in number) people who would like to live and work here, and in doing so make it an increasingly appealing alt city for people who prefer this lifestyle to what the average big city offers.

  8. ### ODT Online Thu, 5 Dec 2013
    Editorial: Snapshot of New Zealand
    …Perhaps most sobering for Dunedin is its economic standing. The city has a median income of $23,300 and an unemployment rate of 7.5% – compared with national rates of $28,500 and 7.1% respectively – and our labour force has shrunk from 61,863 to 60,585. The city’s median income was significantly lower than other major centres (Auckland’s $29,600, Hamilton’s $27,700, Tauranga’s $27,100, Palmerston North’s $27,000, Wellington City’s $37,900 and Christchurch City’s $29,800). Otago as a whole is performing better than Dunedin economically, with an unemployment rate of 5.56% and a median income of $26,300.
    Read more

  9. ODT didn’t abridge Calvin Oaten’s Letter to the editor, published today – it was given the top-billing: ‘No big surprises in the latest census data’. Even more surprising the editor didn’t ask mayor Daaave, or John at COC for reply !!

    After Calvin’s, a letter from John Milburn (ex Monarch owner), now too, of Wanaka……. Amongst other things, he says: “Dunedin continues to send out a message that investment and employment creation from the private sector is not exactly encouraged. This, hopefully, is as a result of the disproportionate publicity afforded to the vocal minority, who appear to have “seen off” the proposed $100 million waterfront hotel and are now actively campaigning against oil/gas exploration off the Otago coast”.

    Hate to tell John that there are different audiences at work and intertwined – plus, he left off the proportion of our Dunedin cycling lobby what protesteth from time to time at St Clair esplanade. If he gets too morose, he has dear defrocked Mike to hold his hand, and together they can drive to Malc’s at Eiontown, just minutes away, for a few strong gins about vocal minorities (a language shared). Boof.

    Next letter? I love Olivier Lequeux on census stats, Invermay, and University of Otago. Spot on about Jock Allison’s earlier opinion piece on Invermay (ODT 1.12.13) and his pioneering work, a past era – contrasting strongly with what Invermay research is now descended to, as Olivier says: “an irrelevant operation”.

    Some days my $1.20 spare change does buy illumination and good cheer, from ODT. Just some.

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