The manager of the Dunedin City Council's economic
development unit says it was a "hard call" to resign just as
the city embarks on a new push to improve its financial
Peter Harris yesterday confirmed he had resigned and would
leave the council on December 21 after a decade of working
within the unit.
He is taking on a new role at Otago Polytechnic, becoming an
innovation facilitator at the institution - focusing on new
trends in learning - early next year.
Mr Harris said it was a tough time to leave.
The council had partnered with six organisations, including
the University of Otago and Otago Southland Employers'
Association, to produce the development plan, which was aimed
at creating 10,000 new jobs and boost individual incomes by
$10,000 per annum, over the next decade.
"I think the economic place we're at at the moment is a
really interesting one, in that the strategy's been signed up
to by six organisations, which I think is pretty unique
across the country."
He was also encouraged to see business people who were
"engaged" by the new approach.
"They actually have read it and they get it, they can
articulate it and they are positive about it. I think that
sort of buy-in is really exciting.
"I think there's a sense in Dunedin that we can't rely on
other people to move the city forward. We've got to get on
with it ourselves."
Criticism from some quarters the council did not do enough to
support business had been a challenge, as had the departure
of Fisher and Paykel from Dunedin, which helped fuel a
perception Dunedin businesses were "dying off", he said.
That overlooked other innovative and successful companies
within Dunedin, which were "doing some incredible things" but
often remained hidden, he said.
Having an economic development unit within the council had
both advantages and disadvantages, as its efforts could
sometimes be "tarred with council decisions that businesses
aren't going to agree with".
However, Mr Harris believed the EDU team was "reasonably well
respected out there", and could help intervene and advocate
for businesses "in a way that you wouldn't be able to if you
were outside of council".
"It's not to say council can't do it better, and I think it
can . . . it's an ongoing challenge."