Chinese plans for Dunedin school

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
Chinese investors with plans for a $60 million international school have chosen Dunedin as their preferred location, and hope to open a facility within three years.

The project, if it proceeded, could attract hundreds of pupils to the city each year, as well as creating hundreds of jobs and pumping ''tens of millions'' of dollars into the city's economy each year.

It is understood the facility would cater for wealthy overseas families - in China and elsewhere - wanting to send their children abroad to receive an international education.

The school would offer a mix of education and accommodation facilities, allowing pupils at a secondary school level to live in the facility while studying an international syllabus.

Those wanting to continue their tertiary studies in Dunedin could stay on at the school while studying at the University of Otago or Otago Polytechnic, it was understood.

The details were confirmed after representatives from the Chinese backers travelled to Dunedin for meetings yesterday with the Otago Chamber of Commerce, Dunedin City Council and other parties, including Dunedin-based Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

The developers still required a site and resource consent - which could trigger public consultation - before the development could proceed. Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull welcomed the news yesterday, saying the development would be ''fantastic'' for the city.

''It's building on our considerable strengths as an educational centre. It would be a perfect fit and we've got a tremendous amount to offer.''

The progress came after Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie first confirmed in November an international investor was eyeing the city for a potential major project.

The chamber, council and other parties had since prepared a proposal that had Dunedin selected as the developers' preferred location, Mr Christie said yesterday.

The developers were not ready to be identified, but were likely to go public later this year, and had agreed to allow more details of their plans to be made known in the meantime, he said.

They were experienced providers, involved in similar operations within China and abroad, Mr Christie said.

They had already raised a significant portion of the $60 million cost of building the school in Dunedin, tapping into international investors, and were confident of securing the remainder soon, Mr Christie said.

Funding could also come from investors within New Zealand, some of whom also met in Dunedin yesterday to discuss the project, Mr Christie said.

The search for a suitable location within the city had also begun.

A list of potential sites was presented during yesterday's meeting, as was work by council staff on regulatory and planning issues, Mr Christie said.

The potential investment opportunity had been identified as part of Project Shanghai - a component of the city's new economic development strategy - and pursued by Mr Christie during a recent trip to China.

Mr Christie praised the collaborative approach undertaken since then by parties across the city, including the council, saying the ''united city front'' had helped secure Dunedin's preferred status.

The aim was to attract a development that would complement the city's existing strength in the education sector, and help it grow, rather than competing with what was already in place, he said.


International school
The plan

• $60m international school proposed by Chinese backers.

• Dunedin preferred location over other New Zealand centres.

• Mix of education and accommodation facilities suggested as part of package.

• Catering for secondary school-aged children from wealthy international families.

• Links to University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic for later tertiary study.

• Potential for hundreds of students, hundreds of jobs, ''tens of millions'' into economy each year, Otago Chamber of Commerce says.

Where to from here?

• Meeting between developers and Dunedin City Council, Otago Chamber of Commerce, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse held in Dunedin yesterday.

• Potential sites around Dunedin (public and private-owned) tabled yesterday; to be investigated.

• Council staff already working on planning and regulatory issues.

• Developers hope to secure site within months.

• Full disclosure, including identification of developers, and consent application to follow.

• Public consultation depending on site location, planning and other issues.


Penny forum

Very interested in your comments on Ak accommodations, Mike. In the 80s I stayed in 'Farthings', because it was opposite the Railway Station. A square high rise, historic, warren like halls leading to the bars. You mention nice people. I suppose they were nice, back then; the older woman who had tried to shoot Barry Crump in the 60s, the Euro travellers who didnt understand 'No! Nyet! Begone, strumpet!'.

No, I'm not kidding

Disagree all you like Lynden. The fact of the matter is that those coming to the South Island do so mainly for adventure activities in Queenstown and the scenery of Mt Cook, the West Coast, Fiordland and the Catlins. Sure, there will be a few passers-by that will stop here to see the odd attraction that is of interest to them. Most will not go to everything as they will limit spending here in favour of better things elsewhere.

I know it's sad, but thats the truth of it. 

Cart before the horse

qsrc: So don't get the cart before the horse. Let's work on the demand side of the tourism equation before we worry about building hotels and bigger airports. There's no point in spending money or effort there if there's no reason for people to actually come.

More importantly, I think it's important to realise that tourism is a small part of Dunedin's economic story. It's important because when it works well and leaves its profits with locals it brings new wealth into our economy which is good for all of us. What we should be doing is diversifying. Big projects are great for politicians to harp on because they're easy stories to tell - the real successes are the small ones, the small businesses that export products or services. That means IT, small engineering - and yes, tourism too. If you have a mate with a great idea for a better mousetrap encourage him or her, invest a little money.

A far bigger problem than "should we build an ugly hotel that will mostly be empty?" is "where is the investment in new local business?". Where's the Dunedin based Kiwisaver fund I can invest my Kiwisaver in? One we can all invest our Kiwisavers in. They're all managed in the North Island by people for whom Dunedin is just the cold spot on the TV weather. They invest in things they can touch and feel.

If the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce want to grow our economy, to grow our way out of  the financial mess the stadium has brought on to us, they have to work on growing new local small business, and growing local small businesses into larger ones rather than taking more junkets to China. Leave those to those of us who actually do business there and pay our own way.

Are you kidding?

On a final note, just remember that all we have to offer can likely be seen in a day" says speedfreak.

I disagree. All you want to see might be done in a day, but not all Dunedin has to offer could be. For instance people attending the recent international conference of botanists (your city won the host rights over more traditional places) were stunned by the diversity that was available close the city and it was remarked that it could all be seen in the time that they were here, which was several days including the usual conference things.
Now, I couldn't tell the difference between a flower and a weed most of the time, but that doesn't mean the flora and fauna isn't an attraction for some, especially considering the accessabilty of such a diverse range so close to our city.
Going out to the heads and seeing the seals , albatroses , penguins , disappearing gun etc is at least a 1/2 day if not a full day trip. Exploring our historical building and places (even if you stuck to the main ones) takes more than a day. Then there's the Taeri Gorge Rail Trip etc.  There are plenty of other things i could list  and maybe you should type " Dunedin tourist attractions" into google and try and do even the main ones in a day.
Maybe you'll see some of the things that appeal to some of us and tourists and start to appreciate this town you choose to live in but so love to run down. Like all towns Dunedin has it's issues, but we are fortunate to have access to more than our fair share of diverse attractions , scenery, recreational activities etc, either within or city or within a short travel time compared to most.


Exactly the point

Speedfreak: Yes, that's the point I'm trying to get across here. We need more tourist attractions to make people stay 2-3 days, so tourists stay for more than a day - and more of those world class sorts of things that you can get nowhere else, things that make Dunedin a place that tourists actually choose as a destination rather than somewhere they pass through. It's hard - our weather works against us.

In general, service industries don't create demand, they service it: if you want new financially viable hotels you need an existing surplus of people who want to stay in them. If you want a viable stadium you need a surplus of acts needing venues for concerts or to perform rugby etc. For a school you need students. "Build it and they will come", as we've seen with the stadium, is simply a quote about ghosts from a corny movie.

Four word that dont go together

Dunedin tourism and world class? It is laughable that people try to claim that.

Clearly this supposes regular world travel is to hick town backwaters aka nowhere. I have travelled externsively worldwide and we have nothing, I repeat nothing, on 99% of the real world class tourist attractions.

We dont even have a decent hotel to stay at or a airport to land large planes. We have zero world class tourism attractions. When overseas and people ask where are you from, more people have heard of Invercargill than Dunedin.

Anti progress league, please please please let us do something. Stop holding us back in 2014. It's not 1954! [Abridged]

Missing something

Dunedin is not the tourist location you all wish it may be. It's not the must-go-to place in New Zealand. It's not the must-go-to place in the South Island and it's not even the must-go-to place in Otago.

Let's just face reality. We are a place that some stop at en route to somewhere else, and sad to tell you but that's the way it will always be. Personally, I see no need to have 5-star accommadation here at all, and I'm pretty doubtful that this would influence any that really wanted to visit from coming. I couldn't care less if we missed out on a couple of "stuck ups" that couldn't manage to "slum it" in 4-star for a night or two.

On a final note, just remember that all we have to offer can likely be seen in a day and thus negates any need to stopover at all. We are a service town to the university and a retirement village for those that cannot escape. Enough said.

Travel and tourism

Claret Kiwi: I travel all over the world for my job, a lot - I would much rather others ruin their environment than mine. I don't think that's hypocritical - I think it's common sense. I don't want farmers dumping dairy effluent in my backyard, but I still want milk in my coffee. Remember I've continually pushed here to wait until we really know we can drill safely at such depths, and to not be selfish, to leave some of our country's natural resources for our kids, so they will have something to help pay that stadium debt we're also leaving them. Besides, as you continually remind us, they are drilling for gas - I don't know of any gas powered airplanes.

Long term we are going to have to find other ways to fuel our lifestyles - oil and gas is only being created under the ground in geological time frames, millions of years, it's not being created at the rate that we are using it. It will eventually run out.

ItsMe: I disagree - sure there's plenty to do here, but not a lot of reasons to actually come here (as opposed to anywhere else). No one goes around the world staying in 5 star hotels just to look at stadiums - that's plain silly.  No one comes to Dunedin just to see the station, or Larnachs castle, or Cadbury world. I find "the worlds steepest street" hype slightly embarrassing.

We do have world class tourist attractions:  the albatrosses and penguins are, I think, real reasons to come here that may mean people actually choose Dunedin as a destination rather than just passing through. The railway might also qualify such if it had a steam engine.

Plenty to do here

Mike - I would really like to see your vintage car handed to the valet staff at the Langham. You say there are 1%  who don't want to associate with us plebs - I disagree. The majority of 5 star seeking people want to associate with all sorts of people but they need choice. I have also stayed in many 5 star hotels but I have also stayed in many 3 and 4 star. If I go to Auckland I have a choice on what my budget can afford at that time or if a certan hotel has a special deal. People coming to Dunedin have little choice thus why we urgently need foregin investment to boast choice and tourism.
The choices here are is motels, 4 star hotels or somewhere like the Southern Cross - nice but certainly not 5 star or high quality.
You say there is little to do here for tourists. Try going to Hamilton, Tauranga, Invercargill or Palmerston North and you will see nice cities with not a lot to do. Are you seriously saying Dunedin does not have much to offer? Think Albatross, Peninsula, Taieri Gorge, Castle, Cadbury World, the railway station, the steepest street and of course our unique stadium.
I think there is plenty here. Is there any city in NZ that lives up to your high standands and expectations? I would be interested to know.


How do you get to Auckland when you travel there on business Mike?

I really do hope it's not by air or other oil guzzling vehicle. It would be really hypocritical to use oil that's been extracted in someone else’s backyard when you don’t want it extracted in yours, wouldn't it?

But hopefully no, you won't be hypocritical. You'll travel by solar powered go-cart or something similar, won't you?

No ugly tower blocks

itsme: I occasionally stay in 5 star hotels when traveling on business - stayed in the Langham in Auckland a couple of months ago, I don't understand the big deal. I guess what you're saying is there's some portion of the 1% who just don't want to associate with the plebs like the rest of us? I haven't seen them. The people I see in these hotels seem nice enough, so it must be a tiny proportion hiding in their rooms, maybe 1% of the 1%. Besides, what would these mythical people spend money on that other visitors wouldn't?

I can think of better reasons why people who can afford private jets and have busy lives don't stay on in Dunedin .... after all, there's little to do here for tourists. So let me make the point I was trying to make before - if we want to make more money from tourists let's create more reasons for them to stay before we even worry about where they will stay. Otherwise the result will simply be an empty hotel, already more than half converted to apartments.

And if we're really going to make a big deal about a 5-star hotel let's build one that people will remember, one that reflects Dunedin in our own unique way, one that doesn't look just like another one of those ugly Hong Kong tower blocks you see taking the train in from the airport.


MikeStk, If anyone gets out and travels there are many cities and places in the world smaller than Dunedin that have 5 star hotels are resorts and are easily filled. The last RWC proved that beds were tight.

And your also failed to realise the proposed hotel would see apartment-style living which is also demanded in Dunedin but only really catered to students not inner city professionals etc. It seems even Gisborne has more of these modern facilities.

You say you are into business yet oppose many, an interesting irony. The stadium is now built, done and dusted.

Some common sense

Yes, that's right Clare. Well done. The "anti everything mob" can't get over the Stadium that was built ages ago now and it makes me laugh uncontrolably. They should stop crying every day about it by opening both eyes to the wonderful city we live in and just move on. Imagine living or working with the "anti everything mob". I can't understand why they don't pack up their computer and lazyboy and put their life belongings into their vintage car and move to somewhere that is going backwards which will suit them well. Somewhere without the wealth of oil, Chinese schools, 5 star hotels and modern stadiums - Gosh what a good idea bring it on. 

Elton John flew out after concert

In reply Elton John had the Esplanade hotel booked out for the day for his use if needed but he immediately flew out from Dunedin airport straight after the concert in his private jet to Aussie.

Queenstown's growth

A 5 star hotel is a must for any city of value. That the private sector has completely failed until now to provide one in Dunedin is indicative of the private sector's unwillingness to invest in Dunedin. Instead it has been Queenstown, Wanaka (and vineyards?)

I am sure there are those who would wish to blame 'the complainers' for this lack of investment by the private sector. Or they blame the DCC (probably with some justification). Ultimately it is the private sector who has failed until now.

As for job creation, the hotel will create some short term jobs (better than nothing) but it is the likes of the new school project that will create long term growth in Dunedin.


Its me: If my memory serves me correctly, Elton stayed at The Esplanade.

Hear Hear

Very well said Its Me.  You're on the money.

It's really not that difficult to understand, but yet our anti friends seem to have so much trouble seeing the blindingly obvious.

Maybe they have difficulty seeing out of only one (stadium focused) eye.....


Some people here don't want job creation

Bolder - I am not so concerned about jobs for construction workers as they are all flat out in Christchurch and it can be built faster by having Chinese people come over here to do that. Oops did I mention while they are here they will spend a lot of money on accommodation, food etc etc?? (Irony). The real winners are the permanent employees of the hotel who get jobs (yep jobs Bolder) and the flow on to other jobs in the area of tourism, hospitality and so on. Do you not want jobs here?

Failed again big time

Yep you have failed again Mike and clearly don't understand people who are 5 star travellers. You say the 5 star hotel would be negative as we can't fill existing hotels. This is the point you miss. The average 5 star traveller does not currently come to Dunedin - I repeat does not (no nope not). I am talking rich Americans and Asians and corporates who are looking for conference venues. They simply do not come here Mike and a 5 star hotel opens up a new market never seen before.

Let's break this down into simple terms. Think about most of us in Dunedin do we stay in 5 star accomodation each time we travel (probably not) so the existing market remains for the 4 star places we book not because 5 star is offered. Now let's thinks about the folk in the 5 star market that never stay at 4 star or below they wont come to Dunedin as there is not suitable accomodation to meet the standard they expect.

Question for you - did Elton John, Paul Simon, Aerosmith and many other well known people stay in Dunedin? Answer No they flew off to locations like Queenstown with 5 star. I know of a number of corporate managers who will not stay over night here (I repeat not) as there is no 5 star accomodation. These are big spending people. While I feel that is pompous to only expect 5 star I also must acknowledge that this is reality and so should you. Also the flow on from this 5 star hotel is huge.

Yes the profits may go overseas but we desperately need jobs and this is one way to create hundreds very quickly. You and your "anti everything" mob clearly live in a different world to most others in the city who want progress.

School and hotel

Do you think for one minute there will be jobs for construction workers when the woman's husband owns a construction company in China they will do exactly the same as they did with the Chinese garden import everything from the homeland, also it will be highly unlikely the hired staff will come from Dunedin if you can't speak Chinese you won't working there. This will apply for the school and the hotel guaranteed.

A big fail

itsme: I disagree - for our economy the stadium is a big fail - would be far better off holding on to my rates and spending it myself - there's no reason why I should be forced to subsidise a private company like the Highlanders.

The flow on to the current hospitality sector of a 5 star hotel would be negative - we can't fill the existing hotels, their occupancy rates are down, a new big hotel would take customers away from the existing  hotels, it's currently a 0-sum game, and no one goes "that guy must be from the 5 star hotel I'll give him the menu with the higher prices" - our problem is that we need more attractions, here not more places to stay when people come to see the albatrosses or penguins. More importantly we need reasons for people to stay an extra day rather than attracting extra people - that's more likely to get people out of their hotels and into local shops.

I think a 5 star hotel is a great idea (just not one that looks so ugly) if there were a room shortage. However I don't believe the promised economic results to the city of this one are real, the bulk of the jobs: maids, waiters, bartenders won't get paid much more than minimum wage, and because it is owned by people who live outside our community the bulk of the profits will not stay here.

This is why the economics of a school are different - the bulk of the costs are likely staff salaries, not minimum wage, they'll end up being spent here, sure profits will still leave to the owners but they will be smaller compared to the salary spend than a hotel, the amount left in the local economy will likely be far more.



Mikestk: It's a big fail for you I'm afraid. Clare has been saying what I have been saying for ages so a big pass mark for her. What you fail to get is that Clare makes a huge point about all the moaners who frequent this site.

You own a successful small business - great, what about putting on your thinking cap and think about how others can make money, how Dunedin can have a competitve advantage over other cities, how we can become a great small city with economic growth rather than your desire to become some backwash achient city with no future?  

The hotels and school ideas are 100% a fantastic idea. I am in business in a senior leadership role and also own a business here. I have lived in Dunedin all my life. I get the piece of why Dunedin needs to prosper as much as anyone else. Why would anyone seriously turn down foreign investment in our city i.e. you don't pay a cent but you get increased employment, increased tourism, jobs jobs jobs.

The flow on into hospitality and other sectors from a 5 star hotel and this school is in the millions. You say the hotel will take away accomodation from the sector. Wrong Mike it is not rocket science. The 5 star market does not now come here as there is not suitable accomodation. It brings in new people. Like it or not, we are missing big spenders here Mike and we sorely need them. It amazes me you can't figure this out. It will also help get more events at the Stadium - like the FBS or not it is in your best interests to attract people here. [Abridged]

Irony and yawns

Brilliant response to my response Mike, absolutely first class [massive amount of irony intended]. You are completely missing the point of what I was talking about.  But never mind.

Whether the lobby against everything in this city has a label or not is completely irrelevant.   The point is there is a group of people in Dunedin who are against absolutely everything which is proposed.  No wonder businesses don't want to come here.

I sometimes wonder why I opened my business here.  Oh, hang on, it's because I love the place and want to see it prosper.

But hey, you carry on with your little crusade.

I think most people are intelligent to see you and those like you for what you are.

PS Carry on bringing up the issue of the stadium....yawn (which incidentally had nothing to do with this thread).  It's the DAPL which keeps bringing it up - get over it - it's built.

A figment

ClaretKiwi: I believe this whole "Anti Progress League" thing was invented by you and your mates here - you can't just create an organisation and enroll others in it against their will and then complain because they are members, that's just silly and a bit dishonest - this organisation is a figment of your imagination, not mine. Since you've made it up you're responsible for its actions and its name.

I run a small Dunedin company that exports, that brings in far more wealth to the community than it loses - I spend that money in my community and we all win. We need lots more companies like mine, they don't have to be big, but if we have lots some will get big. All companies start small, they don't spring into existence fully formed.

Having more of these think-big things like the stadium or a foreign owned hotel that result in a net loss of wealth from our community is not a good thing. Sure you can point at some edifice and think things are getting better, but unless you actually look at the economics of how they interact with the local economy you can't tell whether they are really good for us. At first glance this school looks like it will leave more than it takes - that's a good thing.

Did I read what you said?

MikeStk – you ask whether I read what you said – actually yes I did, every single word.   Perhaps I should quote a few ......

A language school is a great idea, something that brings wealth into our economy is a good thing, I wish we taught more of our kids Mandarin in our normal schools, unlike French, German and Latin it's our future.” – Mike, it’s a school, not a language school.  This subtle but very important distinction makes a massive difference to your various arguments.

However we already seem to have several language schools in town” – Mike, it’s a school, not a language school.  On the one hand you support a school, but on the other hand argue against "another" language shcool.  Just get your arguments straight would you?

But the best of your inaccuracies so far is this one – “I'm not sure about this "Anti Progress League" you belong to, it is rather an antique sort of name, I recommend a marketing do-over and perhaps a few units in Economics at Uni.”  It’s not me that belongs to it mate – it’s you!

How on earth to you expect to be taken seriously when your arguments are so error-ridden?


Get on with it

Stop whinging. Stop moaning. Stop wringing your hands for once... and just get the bloody-hell on with this!  Where, and who, are the losers if this proposal progresses? And how can this potential be anything but a positive for Dunners?  Sitting where I am at the mo', reading - again - what some on this forum have begun calling (somewhat correctly, it could be said) Dunedin's 'anti-progress league' as they launch their comments...


The only people moaning are those moaning about moaners. This is weird. The school sounds promising though.

I also support . . .

. . . better separation of cyclists and motor vehicles; The removal of traffic, except public transport and service vehicles from the Octagon and parts of George Street; Better funding of the arts in Dunedin and environs; A new pool in a rapidly expanding Mosgiel; A South Dunedin library. Actually per capita South Dunedin probably should also have a pool; The removal of public sector subsidy of rugby.



You guys are so funny. Sorry, I meant predictable.

I personally hope this project does happen. I am in favour of long overdue 5 star hotel even at 28 storeys. But not some bland monolith with little archetectural merit. Make it stunning to look at.

I supported the Chinese Garden development,

I am anti-stadium. And I have considerable exprience of the inside machinations of the way it is operated.

According to many of the previous forum posters my last statement I am anti-progress. Clearly I am not

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