Concern aired despite city’s improved economy

Chris Staynes
Chris Staynes
As economic indicators for the city grow, Dunedin city councillors continue to express concerns about the rising cost of housing in the southern city.

Yesterday, the Economic Development Committee reviewed the Dunedin City 2019 Annual Economic Profile report which showed job numbers in the city grew to 65,159 last year and the average wage climbed to $56,801 a year.

Committee chairman Cr Chris Staynes said the report showed the city had put the economic doldrums of its past, which he had lived through, behind it.

"I’m a glass half-full person, and I read in this report the city has turned a corner," he said.

However, he questioned the scope of Dunedin’s 2013-23 Economic Development Strategy that was aimed at growing jobs and salaries for the city’s residents — and he suggested a third goal for the strategy.

"Now, we have to make sure there’s more balance ... a city that is liveable," Cr Staynes said.

Business analysis contractor Benje Patterson, who presented the report, cautioned some councillors who were to keen to extend the economic strategy’s goals.

"There is a lot of momentum," he said.

"But there can be lots of cyclical factors in the short run."

Cr Andrew Whiley also cautioned over expectations that the momentum would continue unchecked; he said the tourism industry — accounting for 10.2% of the city’s jobs — could suffer for years from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Several councillors raised an issue over the report’s use of data to March 2019 and questioned whether housing remained at a more affordable level than the national average, at five times a household income, compared with 6.1 times nationally.

Cr Jim O’Malley noted it had been reported this year the median house price in the city now topped $500,000 and the median value of all residential properties in the city now beat Christchurch.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the city could be New Zealand’s best in education, and other areas, including boasting the South Island’s best natural harbour, but he was concerned Dunedin’s productivity still languished below the national average.

Also, he took issue with Cr O’Malley’s earlier assertion that the report squared up Dunedin as again being among the four main centres in New Zealand.

"If we make the right decisions here ... we could make sure that is the case," Cr Vandervis said.

During the discussion, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said he had been "reflecting" on the report in light of the death of former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons last week.

He said there were important aspects of life that "can’t be measured on a GDP graph".

The report under discussion was one piece in a bigger, more complex picture.


I think these people have lost the plot. The economy in Dunedin isn't based upon typical financial characteristics that other cities use. There is no manufacturing base in Dunedin. Other than the University, DCC and a few other companies, most jobs are service sectors from small businesses. Do you really think that is an economically sound foundation for the city? The population is growing but that doesn't mean the economey is growing. Dunedin is a textbook example of a dying city. Avergage income isnt growing, unaffortable housing, population growing older , run down homes because owners cant afford repairs, numerous vacant buildings, huge dead areas around the city, vacant shops all over town, a decisve lack of a defined downtown, lack of public private union focused on revitalizing the city. The elected officals have no idead how to save the city. Focusing on globalism & tourism was a false solution. The Corona Virus is a perfect example of what happens when you throw all your eggs into 1 basket. These people running the city are clueless. Walk around the city and count the empty shops. Dunedin is a dying city, DCC cant keep creating jobs to employee everybody! its a hoax!

You make some very good points that I totally agree with but I wouldn't go as far as to call it a dying city. The city will live on despite our closed circular economy and the councils poor governance. However I do predict that the council will be asking for a bailout from central government with in the next ten years. If not sooner, dependent on world and environmental effects.

Housing prices are out of control because immigration is out of control. Demand exceeds supply.

As for the rest of the economy, empty shops and little but government and University jobs signal a dying city, not a vital one.

Too many Dunedin citizens are struggling under high debt, high taxes, high rates - and low wages.

But hey, we have ping pong tables in the Octagon so I guess that means everything is all right...

I agree with the other comments here, and would also add that there is very few prospects for the expansion of manufacturing simply because Dunedin is one of the very few main centres without an industrial business hub. What if any spaces available are expensive and run down. So much focus on the tech and gaming industries, so little on the skilled workforce. Like others here have pointed out, too many eggs in too few baskets.
And no, I don't see Dunedin as a dying city at all either, however I do view it as confused, poorly managed and misguided though.

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