Dunedin city councillors have backed a proposal that could
yet result in continued funding for the Dunedin Digital
Office and the ''Sexy Summer Jobs'' business internship
Dunedin City Council economic development unit manager Des
Adamson asked councillors to use surpluses in other EDU
budgets, together worth $123,200, to pay for the move at
yesterday's 2014-15 budget deliberations.
He said the two programmes were part of a wider push to
promote sustainable economic growth, with wider social
benefits, in Dunedin.
The city needed a competitive and productive economy that
provided more, and higher-paying, jobs, in line with its
economic development strategy. The two programmes were a key
part of that but there was ''no magic bullet'' to encouraging
''These are some of the building blocks that build the bigger
picture,'' he said.
''It's a long-term approach.''
Mr Adamson had asked for surpluses from the EDU's Business
Incubation ($50,000), Student Entrepreneurship ($25,700) and
Other Consultancy ($47,500) budgets to be diverted to the
EDU's projects' budget.
From there, they would be used to pay for the digital office
and Business Internship Programme, both of which would report
to the Grow Dunedin Partnership's steering group, which
governed the city's economic development strategy.
However, following debate by councillors, it was agreed the
surplus funds would instead be diverted to the strategy's
contestable funding pool, where it would be available for use
by any projects delivering on the strategy.
That included the Dunedin Digital Office and Business
Internship Programme, and Mr Adamson said he would be happy
to accept that change.
The move came after criticism from Cr Lee Vandervis, who
questioned the value of previous spending on some economic
He said ''hundreds of thousands'' of dollars had been spent
in the area since 2004, without tangible results, and
questioned the latest reallocation of funds.
''I cannot see any real evidence justifying most of the
spending that's gone into these things.''
Mr Adamson said he believed Dunedin was a ''yes city'' and
needed to be positive, but acknowledged all projects had
their ups and downs.
''I see value on the evidence I have to date ... that these
are things we should continue on with, that they will help
... start moving things forward.''
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie
agreed, telling the meeting the city's economic development
strategy, to which programmes like the Digital Office
contributed, was the only example of its kind of city-wide
co-operation in the country.
''I think that's a tremendous thing ... but I think we have
to give it a little bit of time.
''It's not fair to be critical of past performance when we
haven't had that model.''
The pair's views were supported by Mayor Dave Cull, who said
the funding reallocation showed the council's previous
approach to economic development was being refined.
It also showed the council was prepared to put ''our efforts
where our mouths are'', he said.
Cr John Bezett believed the initiatives that stood to benefit
offered ''some real possibilities of growth in this city''.
Cr Richard Thomson said investment in economic development
was a bit like spending on the warehouse heritage precinct,
with a smaller contribution allowing much more activity to
happen. It also sent an important message that the council
understood some high-tech businesses could relocate to any
city, and the council was prepared to support them, he said.
However, while supporting the funding reallocation, he
questioned the ''broad brush'' approach that resulted in the
Digital Office paying for laptops in some schools.
He suggested a more focused approach could benefit
businesses, but Cr Mike Lord disagreed, saying ''the next
Steve Jobs'' could be found in one of those schools.
''These sorts of things might make the difference ... I don't
think it is just [money] going into a hole. I think it's a
''I wish it was more,'' he said.