Dunedin's cool draws Australians

A record Australian heat wave, bushfire woes and the mounting effects of global warming are likely to encourage more Australians, including academics, to shift to Dunedin, Prof Kath Dickinson believes.

Prof Dickinson heads the University of Otago botany department and is co-convener of the Southern Connection Congress, an international conference of natural science researchers, which was held in Dunedin this week.

The five-day congress brought together more than 300 biologists and geologists from 35 countries. It focused on ''Southern Lands and Southern Oceans: Life on the Edge?''and ended yesterday.

Prof Dickinson said Southern Connection participants had responded very positively to the congress- which was being held in New Zealand for only the second time - and to the Dunedin conference venue.

About six researchers from Australia had also told her that they had enjoyed visiting Dunedin and would consider eventually shifting to the city, either to continue their academic careers, or, at a later stage, to retire here, she said in an interview.

Dunedin was an attractive, cooler city with an appealing university campus of internationally high quality, she said.

She had previously worked in Darwin, where many houses had been built on stilts and their design reflected every effort to maximise the effect of cooling breezes.

She noted that Sydney temperatures had reached a record 45.3degC last week.

''Houses in Sydney and Melbourne haven't been designed for that kind of temperature.''

Rising temperatures meant people in those cities were likely to face huge energy bills to pay for extra air conditioning, and, as global warming continued, residents might also have to spend much more time indoors. In February 2009, on what has become known as Black Saturday, 173 people were killed in wildfires in the state of Victoria.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz