Dunedin 'lagging behind'

John Christie.
John Christie.
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.

The detailed data did not paint a pretty economic picture for Dunedin.

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. Dunedin's median income was also significantly lower than other major centres.

Auckland's median income was $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.

Dunedin's labour force shrank from 61,863 in the 2006 census to 60,585 this year.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the figures showed Dunedin - even accounting for the city's large student population - was lagging behind New Zealand's other major centres.

''Some of these statistics show how far [Dunedin] has slipped in terms of our economic relevance nationally.

''That's the cold, hard reality of these figures. We absolutely need to increase our jobs ... and business opportunities,'' Mr Christie said.

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.

''What we need to do as a city ... is move into the kinds of businesses that have higher-value jobs,'' Mr Cull said.

He believed the low median income figure, apart from being affected by the student population, reflected the fact the city was moving away from the ''traditional manufacturing businesses that sustained the city up to a few decades ago''.

The decreasing labour force showed working-age people were leaving the city.

''We are thin in the middle,'' he said.

The figures showed the Otago region was performing better than Dunedin economically, with an unemployment rate of 5.56% and a median income of $26,300.

The richest part of Otago was the Queenstown-Lakes district, with a median income of $35,200, followed by Clutha ($29,900), Central Otago ($28,200), Waitaki ($25,300) and Dunedin ($23,300).

Mr Christie said it was not surprising Queenstown-Lakes District was the wealthiest part of the region.

''It's not hard to see that evidenced in the types of cars and houses that people have got.''

In releasing the results, government statistician Liz MacPherson said declining home ownership rates in Otago followed a nationwide trend.

''The 2013 census results showed the region's rate of home ownership was 68% in 2013, down just slightly from 69% in 2006,'' Ms MacPherson said.

Nationally, home ownership fell from 67% in 2006 to 65% this year.

Also reflecting a nationwide trend, the number of occupied dwellings in Otago had increased by 5040 since the last census, she said.

Other key points about the Otago region from the 2013 census results included. -

• Otago has the lowest percentage of Maori among its population, with only 7.5% identifying themselves as Maori.

• In 2013, 20% of people in Otago at census time aged 15 years or over said they had a university degree or equivalent, compared with 16% 2006.

• After English, the next most commonly spoken languages in the Otago region are French (1.7%) and te reo Maori (1.6%).


Flight of capital

That Queenstown has higher net worth is not a surprise.  You simply cannot suck that much capital out of a centre like Dunedin and expect it to continue to function.

Dunedin in context please

Students make up around 17% of Dunedin's population. How many other centres around NZ would have anywhere near this proportion of their population made up of this demographic? Please stop the doom and gloom and take these median income figures in context!

Making the most of what we're good at

"...We certainly punch above our weight when it comes to science and the arts," writes nightimejohn.
Science is a potential big earner, though not a big employer, and for every success there have been many blind alleys explored, which is why Dunedin should make it as easy as possible (permits, rates concessions or deferrals for a few years etc) because if start-ups were guaranteed not to fail we'd all be doing it and we'd all be rich.
The arts are poor earners, directly, for most creative people. What they add to a city is excitement, and what excitement adds to a city is attraction for people whose preferred form of exciting isn't "adventure tourism". Dunedin is small enough for anyone to meet artists and musicians and designers, hang out with them, buy their wares to take back home if they are tourists, or decide that living here is for them. Young people who are strongly motivated to live here find or make jobs.
We would be crazy to underestimate the internet and the opportunities it has given. People can work "overseas" but live here. People can market all over the world. Tourists tell people of their experiences - or post photographs of the city or of themselves hanging out with the jeweller who made the (another photo) ring they bought here.
Marketing Dunedin as a place to visit or settle cannot be left entirely to volunteers of course, but it is volunteer labour - the online sharers - who connect most efficiently with people who share their interests. Minor though they may be those niche passions, counting up the people world-wide, come to large numbers. [Abridged]



You have echoed my exact thoughts. It is about time we had the answers to those questions, as I am fairly confident you and I are not the only two wanting to know!

Money doesn't buy happiness

While I have had a fair bit to say in the past about our fair city and some of it's leaders, it is still a great place to live for most of the population. For a city of only 120,000 or so souls we certainly punch above our weight when it comes to science and the arts. This is of course due in part to having a thriving university but the people who make up this city are also a diverse and rich mix which lends an air of vibrancy. To be honest, when you look at some of the people who have lived here and left for that haven of wealth that is the Otago Lakes District, we can probably say we are better off now they are gone.


But they will not continue to come here, and that is the point. No work, no newcomers. The young people I know are not intending to stay here, even though they may 'love' the city. There is simply not the jobs or career paths open to them. Let's see how 'special' it is when there are more 'closed' signs on the doors than 'open' ones. 

I cannot believe people are so naive about Dunedin's place in the future. Wake up, or Dunedin will be nothing but the retirement village of the South (without the climate of Florida).  

Dunedin lagging whilst the University thrives

Even if you are a so called alternative lifestyler you would have to be concerned with the state of the city's economic situation. As rate payers we are already faced with a $623 million dollar consolidated debt. With a shrinking labour force and people leaving the city there will be more pressure on Council to increase rates. It would help if council forced the non rate paying university to pay rates when running commercial enterprises that compete with local business.

The University now openly advertises its accommodation Hall of Residence on WOTIF in direct competition with rate paying accommodation providers. With a large motel paying up to $30,000 or more in annual rates how can this be seen as fair on any level? Will the University continue to buy up accommodation buildings such as their recent purchase of the 216 room Living Space until they drive back packers, and cheap accommodation providers to the wall? What is the rateable value of their accommodation empire? What non rate paying businesses are the University branching into next, pubs, cafes, clubs?

Missing stats

I can't see the relevance of looking at the Median Incomes in isolation as surely it should be looked at in conjunction with statistics pertaining to the cost of living and disposable income.  It'd be fare to surmise that Dunedin would have the lowest cost of living of all the main Centres, resulting in very favourable disposable incomes.

Missing stats

I cant see the relevance of looking at the median incomes in isolation - surely it should be looked at in conjunction with statistics pertaining to the cost of living and disposable income.  It'd be fair to surmise that Dunedin would have the lowest cost of living of all the main centres, resulting in very favourable disposable incomes.

Election time

Kris: Chamber of Commerce elections next week - I'm pretty sure that has a lot to with why Mr Christie is suddenly all over the front page of the ODT

Lagging behind

Don't worry the stadium will save us, better break out the brooms and get it spick and span, the two yes two groundsmen can do this. The Rolling Stones are coming, oops sorry I forgot they are not coming to Dunedin.

@ house

@ house

'Dunedin gets what it deserves as the people voted for the leaders.'

Many people do not agree with your thoughts on 'meaningfoul progress' and voted for leaders that would reflect their views.  Dunedin is such a special place and we need to value what we have. This is why people come here.

Signs of success

I agree.  I know many people who have come to live in Dunedin when they had a choice of many cities around the world. That is a sign of success, not how much $ income they have. 

No more airtime for Christie

I am sick of seeing his quotes in the odt. He is a doomist and good reason not to give him any more media time.  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.   

No surprise in Dunedin's decline

Interesting stats and article.

Little wonder Dunedin is slipping down the ranks when there is a prevailing attitude preventing meaningful progress such as the $100M Hotel and protests against off shore gas exploration.

The attitude of the citizens needs to change in order for the situation to change.  Leadership on this has been rather poor with the current mayor not supporting off shore drilling and the council not having regulations that support the hotel development.

The article is also another reminder (supporter or not) that stadiums are not an economic growth option.  The university was supposed to get an extra 500 students thanks to the stadium and the roll has dropped.  Aside from one rugby test a year (which Carisbrook used to get) the stadium doesn't seem to have anything on the horizon in terms of big acts of the past couple of years that do bring in new money. Not a great situation and not a great return on investment for the City or Otago regional ratepayers. Certainly not living up to the hype and expectation.

Dunedin gets what it deserves as the people voted for the leaders.

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