Draft strategy for consultation

A draft economic strategy for Dunedin's future is a starting point and needs further work including thorough consultation with the public, but has generally been welcomed by city councillors who agreed yesterday to release it for public consultation.

A full meeting of the Dunedin City Council on Dunedin's economic development strategy heard more than 5000 people had been consulted in the making of the draft strategy, which followed two years' work by a steering committee and has been committed to by the Dunedin City Council, Otago Chamber of Commerce, Otago Southland Employers' Association, Otago Polytechnic and University of Otago.

Before agreeing to release it for consultation, Crs Jinty MacTavish, Kate Wilson and Teresa Stevenson raised concerns about the consultation process, wanting to ensure there was a clear and responsive method planned.

Cr MacTavish asked if there would be a public hearing of submissions, but steering group member Philip Broughton, chairman of the Otago Southland Employers' Association, said there were no such plans at this stage because there had been such wide consultation done already and the group felt there was enough input from an economic perspective.

Even if ideas raised in submissions were not adopted, it would be good to have a process that indicated the submissions could be "living strands" in ongoing discussions, Cr Wilson said.

Council economic development unit manager Peter Harris said the process could be considered.

He assured councillors there would be significant public consultation and open discussions and that had already started on Twitter.

To councillors' concerns the actions outlined in the strategy were driven by the council alone, chief executive Paul Orders said it was early days. The actions needed to be worked through and finalised, and although the council was effectively the facilitator of the strategy, there was no intention it would lead all the actions.

While Cr Lee Vandervis called the strategy "positively aspirational" and said he felt like he had heard it all before, Cr Richard Thomson said he was pleased to finally see an economic vision that was different and not chasing one big thing.

He had lived through the pursuit of economic "mirages" in Dunedin before, from aluminum smelters to a nickel smelter, Fisher and Paykel and the stadium.

"Chasing after the big thing that's going to solve our city's problems has been a mirage and will continue to be a mirage."

This draft strategy was built on Dunedin's sense of place, its strengths and ethos, which was the right direction to go in, he said.

"The test for me is to be how are we going to use this as a reference point when we do start to allocate resources."

Crs MacTavish, Stevenson and Chris Staynes said they looked forward to submissions from a wider range of people than just the business or economic sector.

One area that perhaps appeared not to have been addressed in the strategy strongly enough was the arts sector, Cr Staynes said.

"Having sat through annual plan hearings . . . it was an eye-opener how much economic activity and passion there is in that sector."

The strategy was the "start of a journey", and still needed to be worked through in a consultation process, he said.

"It's a plan, but there's an awful lot more to go with it."

Submission forms on the strategy will be available online at www.dunedineconomy.co.nz from today, with submissions open until mid-June.


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