Council survey shows plunging confidence level

Jim Harland
Jim Harland
The impact of the global economic downturn is reflected in the Dunedin City Council's latest residents' opinion survey.

The survey's findings, released yesterday, showed the number of people who thought Dunedin was a thriving city was down 11% from last year's Dunedin City Council satisfaction survey results.

Council chief executive Jim Harland, speaking at a media briefing yesterday, singled out the "noticeable drop" as the most startling result to come out of this year's survey.

However, the figure had to be seen in the context of the most difficult financial crisis the world had faced since 1929, Mr Harland said, and what he believed was New Zealand's first annual decline in economic activity since 1992.

A similar result would be obtained if the same question was asked in any city in the country and, Mr Harland said, the council, through its Economic Development Unit, was working to support local businesses.

"We are doing what we can to address that," he said.

This year's survey, conducted by Christchurch-based company Research First, was mailed to 4500 randomly-selected Dunedin residents in early May, with 1359 responses (30.2%) received by the closing date.

The survey asked respondents to judge the council's performance in relation to services, facilities and other measures, using a five-point scale ranging from "very satisfied" to "very dissatisfied" and also including a "don't know" option.

In other areas, the survey results painted a largely positive picture for the council.

The city's Botanic Garden (91% satisfied or very satisfied), city architecture (90%) and Otago Museum (89%) all scored highly, as did rubbish collection (88%), public libraries (85%) and parks and reserves (85%).

The worst results were for the overall look and feel of South Dunedin's retail area (17% satisfied or very satisfied) and contact with the city's elected councillors and Mayor (18%) and community board members (14%), the survey showed.

The survey contained no specific question about the controversial Forsyth Barr Stadium, but the performance of the council was at 41% satisfied or very satisfied, with 29% of people dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

That compared to 40% of respondents who were either satisfied or very satisfied, and 25% dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, last year.

"What that says to me is there are two quite strongly polarised views, almost equal," Mr Harland said.

The survey also found 34% of people were satisfied or very satisfied with the council delivering good value for ratepayer money, while 32% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

A total of 122 respondents, adding unprompted comments to their surveys, indicated they were against the new stadium.

However, asked yesterday why a stadium question was not included in the survey, Mr Harland said there was no need.

The decision to proceed with the stadium had already been made and the council's processes confirmed by Audit New Zealand.

However, the new stadium was not complete, so could not yet be assessed in the survey as other council facilities were, he said.

 Research First director Carl Davidson believed there was no evidence of a "hidden majority" against the new stadium in the survey results.

Another 239 people chose to fill out online surveys, while 150 people who received surveys, but did not return them, were randomly selected for brief phone interviews, Research First director Carl Davidson said.

Mr Harland said those who "selected themselves" by taking part in the online survey were more likely to be negative towards the council.

The online survey found almost 50% of online respondents were dissatisfied with the overall performance of the council, with just 31% satisfied.


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