The announcement of a Chinese-financed $100 million luxury hotel in Dunedin was one of the more contentious local news stores of the year.
It was the year that had a bit of everything. A bit like
most other years, really. Nigel Benson looks back on
Dunedin wakes up with a New Year's Day hangover, but feeling
The driest December since 1918 has brought the best weather
in New Zealand, while heavy rain and floodwaters sweep the
rest of the country.
It's also an auspicious start to the year as Dunedin artist
Ralph Hotere is made one of 20 members of the Order of New
It's January 6 and David Bain makes his annual pilgrimage to
Dunedin to visit friends and have a dip in the St Clair Salt
''He is regularly up and down,'' advocate Joe Karam says.
The TravelwireAsia website names Dunedin as one of six ''must
see'' destinations in 2012.
Dunedin is also revealed as the best place in New Zealand to
pull off a bank robbery, after police admit that more than
25% of police who failed their firearms test were from the
Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis does his bit for South
Island relations by suggesting businesses in quake-stricken
Christchurch should up pegs and move to Dunedin. This doesn't
go down very well in Christchurch.
January 11 and Dunedin police constables Mal Parker and Ray
Stevic miss firearms practice to usher seven ducklings off
the Southern Motorway at Green Island.
Two 20-somethings are caught climbing up the outside of the
La Maison brothel.
''It was not clear why they were climbing up the building,''
Senior Sergeant Brian Benn says.
Otago University offers a paper about vampires at Summer
''There's something appealing about living forever and having
supernatural strength and never ageing,'' course lecturer
Garth Cartwright says.
All 36 places are quickly taken.
It's a Black Friday for euthanasia campaigner Sean Davison,
who has a brick thrown through the window of the friend's
house where he is serving his home detention sentence.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull talks asset sales on January 16, as
city debt hits a high of $327.4 million, more than 10 times
what the city owed in 1999.
More than 7000 people flock into Dunedin on January 19 from
three cruise ships.
Dunedin Venues Management Ltd announces it has ''no chance''
of meeting its annual $2 million rates bill. Councillors say
''no worries'' and give the company a 93% discount. Problem
That afternoon, the DCC decides to borrow money from itself
to ease money woes. Mayor Cull says if council falls behind
in payments, ''it will have to discipline itself''.
However, the DCC reluctantly backs down on a cunning plan to
charge community groups and schools $16 for holding charity
The Otago Peninsula Community Board warns that cruise ships
may soon have nothing to visit, as they are causing peninsula
erosion inside Taiaroa Head.
The Ministry of Economic Development announces it has now
recovered $2 million of the $15.1 million convicted fraudster
Michael Swann stole from the Otago District Health Board.
Which means he will make about $2 million for each year he
spends in jail. Nice work if you can get it.
February 6 and an over-zealous security guard decides to
extinguish the New Zealand Masters Games torch after a
passing motorist notices a flame inside Foobar Stadium.
An economic impact report shows the Elton John concert pumped
$14.1 million into the Dunedin economy.
However, the next day, DVML chief executive David Davies
announces 2012 will be ''a thin year'' for concerts.
Dunedin philanthropist Malcolm Cameron is announced 2012
Senior New Zealander of the Year. Everyone agrees it's a top
honour for a top bloke. Dunedin City Holdings manages to dig
up an independent consultant who reckons the directors
deserve a 200% rise in their fees. The directors giggle and
wring their hands, but realise they'll never get away with
The Otago Rugby Football Union begs for a bail-out after
announcing it is $2.35 million in the red and unlikely to
field a team in the 2012 comp.
Former player and coach Laurie Mains steps up to the plate
and offers his help to ''find a way forward''.
That turns out to mean suing Mayor Cull for $1 million,
because Mains and ORFU chairman Wayne Graham believe he said
something mean about the ORFU.
A few days later, it emerges the ORFU held a $25,000 booze-up
before admitting it was heading for liquidation. The bill is
not paid, of course. Everyone says ''sorry'' and ''no
Staff at Dunedin Botanic Garden talk pest control after
students invent a game called ''Possum'', which involves
sitting up a tree and drinking beer until they fall out.
The story goes so viral that most internet images of possums
now show drunk University of Otago students lying under
It's March and it's cold, after 113mm rain in February -
double the normal rainfall. The rest of the country reminds
us how smug we were in January.
Former Every St newspaper boy David Bain gives his first
interview since his retrial.
''I wasn't there. I'm innocent,'' he says. No worries.
Otago University reveals it has killed 25,000 animals in
''research and teaching purposes'' since 2010.
It's March 14 and the DCC writes off $500,000 of ORFU debt.
Naked Christchurch artist Audrey Baldwin licks her way out of
a toffee box at the Dunedin Fringe Festival.
Panelbeaters rub their hands together with glee when the new
give way-rules come in on March 25, while University of Otago
genetics student Josh Stewart lands in the record books after
throwing a paper dart 30.1m.
Crime in New Zealand hits a 15-year low in April, with Otago
one of the safest places to live.
Foobar is named one of five international venues of the year.
War veterans are abused in the streets for hawking
Chinese-made poppies, but a huge crowd of 10,000 watches dawn
break on Anzac Day at Dunedin Cenotaph.
Dunedin Hospital emergency department head Dr Tim Kerruish
resigns as clinical leader, saying inadequate staffing levels
made his position ''untenable''.
A couple of weeks later, the Southern District Health Board
reveals doctors' salaries are $865,000 over budget.
Milton teenager Karn Forrest is the first driver to have his
car crushed under new boy racer legislation, but he pulls a
swifty and swaps his 1982 Toyota DX for an old dunger. Police
are not amused, but everyone else thinks it's pretty funny.
Plans unveiled to turn Dunedin's one-ways into two-ways.
Panelbeaters who missed out during the give-way rule change
start rubbing their hands together again.
It's April 27 and 1343 people apply for 100 jobs at the new
South Dunedin Countdown.
Dunk-a-cop is most popular event at Dunedin Central police
station open day. Inspector Alistair Dickie is the biggest
bobby, taking 15 duckings.
Police arrest 10 Mongrel Mob entrepreneurs who have used
Whanau Ora Charitable Trust funds to finance a $100,000
The DCC announces a $1.9 million loss for the first half of
Foobar's 2011-12 financial year and reveals the $198 million
stadium is actually going to cost $224.4 million. Lots of
mumbled ''sorries'' and ''no worries''.
English supergroup Coldplay gives cold shoulder to proposed
Foobar gig, because Dunedin Airport is too short to
accommodate a Boeing 747.
A Chinese-financed $100 million luxury hotel is announced for
the Steamer Basin. Redundant anti-stadium campaigners angrily
throw the blanket off their knees.
The Otago Settlers Museum realises no-one can see the
locomotive in its flash new glass case because it could not
afford non-reflective glass.
The University of Otago is in the pink, announcing assets of
$1.4 billion - more than any university in the country - and
an operating surplus of $26 million for 2011. A university
study shows ''ageing and less physically active'' police are
struggling to pass their physical competency test. This
includes gruelling tasks like climbing through a 1m-high
window and running around traffic cones spaced 30m apart.
Hillside for sale
KiwiRail announces Hillside is for sale.
Dunedin crown prosecutor Robin Bates takes the law into his
own hands, chasing thieves in his pyjamas after ''two
intoxicated students'' take off with a recliner from his
Niwa reports sunniest April on record, exceeding 180 sunshine
hours for the first time since records began in 1948.
Dunedin MP Michael Cullen gleefully accepts a knighthood, 12
years after his Labour cabinet agreed to wipe titular titles.
He chuckles into his sleeve and says ''sorry'' and ''no
The Otago Settlers Museum will be called Toitu. Nobody is
sure what it means, but it looks nice.
Audit New Zealand warns stadium debt may lead to rates hikes,
increased debt levels and service cuts in Dunedin.
Promoter Rob Fitzpatrick announces he is bringing the Rolling
Stones to the stadium. It later transpires it is actually a
rodeo that is coming. But things are on a roll as the Dunedin
Rotary Club inks a multimillion-cent deal to hold a Sunday
market at the stadium.
Dunedin holiday park owners are advised to buy rice cookers
to increase their share of the Chinese tourism trade.
Newsweek magazine, which claims a readership of 14 million,
asks University of Otago student magazine Critic to design
the cover for its July 14 issue. Dunedin police call for a
detox centre after a 20-year-old female student covered in
glow paint and vomit is found hypothermic near the wharf at
The following weekend, a university church group mobilises a
courtesy van, equipped with sick bags and two volunteers in
Buddhists announce the Dalai Lama will appear at Foobar on
Leaky home nightmare
After stonewalling for more than a year, the DCC finally does
right by a young Dunedin family trapped in a leaky home
nightmare. The DCC signed off on the $550,000 Glenleith house
and issued it with a code of compliance certificate, but
refuses to take responsibility when it is certified as a
After 15 months of ducking and diving, it reluctantly
concedes defeat. But only if it doesn't have to say sorry and
the settlement is hushed up. But the lawyers are happy. Which
Doc staff rescue a seal at Lovers Leap that has a red
G-string wrapped around its neck.
Maori Hill School pupil Tom Gold (9) wins his dream job and
the envy of his friends when he is appointed an official
A Dunedin Hospital audit reveals that only half the staff are
washing their hands.
''Disturbing,'' says board member Richard Thomson.
A few days later, Dunedin Hospital is at full capacity with
''seasonal illness and higher than normal levels of staff
A year after Foobar is built and experts were advising the
grass wouldn't grow very well, the DCC finds the grass isn't
growing very well and proposes to spend $1 million replacing
the mixed grass with artificial grass.
You reap what you sow.
KiwiRail announces on August 25 Hillside will be closed if it
can't be sold.
Dunedin woman ''grossed out'' after finding a bird in her
$4.49 salad from Countdown in Andersons Bay. Countdown says
Foobar meister David Davies announces his resignation and
heads back to England ''to be with his family'', which is
DVML considers more than 100 candidates, before walking down
the corridor and picking operations manager Darren Burden. It
then announces a $1.9 million loss for the first six months.
Otago Museum chief executive Shrimrath Paul quits after 22
years for Indonesia. His $310,793 package was the highest
museum salary in New Zealand.
Canadian judge Ian Binnie decides David Bain is probably not
guilty of murder and recommends a compensation claim of up to
The 102-year-old steamship Te Whaka is scrapped after
restoration project fails. A record 88 cruise ships carrying
a quarter of a million passengers are scheduled to visit
Dunedin over summer.
September 28 and Mayor Cull says sorry for being mean about
ORFU. Laurie Mains and Wayne Graham say ''no worries''.
An ODT Official Information Act request reveals the
University of Otago has spent $68.3 million on travel in four
years - the equivalent of 30,000 around-the-world trips from
Auckland to London Three days later, the university raises
fees by 4% due to ''a perfect storm'' of financial pressure.
Tuatara return to the lower South Island on October 17 for
the first time in a century when 44 are transferred to
The Hollies are confirmed to play at Foobar. Everyone under
70 says ''who?''Easy-on-the-eye Dunedin criminal Daniel
Tohill becomes an international celebrity when his 1908
arrest photos are put on the internet. More than 500,000
people check him out, despite the fact he died in 1950, aged
Grown men weep as Hillside Workshops is closed with the loss
of 90 jobs, after surviving the Depression and two world
wars. Dunedin boutique brewery Emerson's calls time and sells
out to Japanese giant Kirin.
Embarrassed Green Island boatie Colin Webb manages to run his
boat aground twice in a day while bringing it to Dunedin from
Bluff. Local fisherman ran a sweep on whether he would even
make it. When rescued, Mr Webb reveals he had been tossing up
between the boat and a microlight.
December 25 and Santa brings toys to all the good boys and
Colin Webb does not get his microlight.