Ups and downs, but no worries

The announcement of a Chinese-financed $100 million luxury hotel in Dunedin was one of the more contentious local news stores of the year.
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 2012.

Dunedin wakes up with a New Year's Day hangover, but feeling rather smug.

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 Zealand.

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 Water Pool.

''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 Southern region.

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.

Vampire attraction

Otago University offers a paper about vampires at Summer School.

''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.

DMVL debate
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 solved.

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 sausage sizzles.

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 it.

Rugby controversy

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 worries''.

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 trees.

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 touch

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.

Job seekers

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 cannabis operation.

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.

Hotel announced

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 inner-city home.

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 worries''.

The Otago Settlers Museum will be called Toitu. Nobody is sure what it means, but it looks nice.

Stadium events

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 1.30am.

The following weekend, a university church group mobilises a courtesy van, equipped with sick bags and two volunteers in high-visibility vests.

Buddhists announce the Dalai Lama will appear at Foobar on June 11.

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 leaky home.

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 is nice.

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 toy-tester.

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 sickness''.

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 ''sorry''.

Foobar meister David Davies announces his resignation and heads back to England ''to be with his family'', which is nice.

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.

Paul quits

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 $2 million.

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''.

Air miles

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 Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

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 68.

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 girls.

Colin Webb does not get his microlight.

-nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

Not reclining, just restin'

Was the recliner just having a lie down? Are Dunedin police too busy for firearms practice? DaveM, the author is doing mock irony, not stereotyping.

Thanks for the stereotyping

'Redundant anti-stadium campaigners angrily throw the blanket off their knees'? Way to go promoting stereotypes ODT. 

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