Labour's Dunedin digital plan welcomed

Labour leader Andrew Little speaks to more than 400 people in a packed Hutton Theatre in Dunedin last night. The audience was a range of ages. It was believed to be one of the largest political meetings held in Dunedin for many years and the largest Labou
Labour leader Andrew Little speaks to more than 400 people in a packed Hutton Theatre in Dunedin last night. The audience was a range of ages. It was believed to be one of the largest political meetings held in Dunedin for many years and the largest Labour Party meeting since former prime minister Helen Clark was in office. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Business and civic leaders were unanimous in their praise for Labour's ambitious plans to create a multimillion-dollar centre of digital excellence in Dunedin.

Labour leader Andrew Little was in Dunedin yesterday to launch the centre, called ''Code'', which would have $10 million spent on it over the next 10 years.

If elected on September 23, Labour would establish the centre in Dunedin to build on the city's strengths as a centre of knowledge, innovation and expertise in the new economy, he said at a policy launch at Innov8HQ in Dunedin.

Dunedin had a solid foundation of talent in the gaming and digital sector, he told an audience that included Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and business and civic representatives.

To capitalise further on Dunedin's talents, Labour intended establishing a chair of computer gaming at the University of Otago, setting up a gaming incubator with a motion capture studio and providing a funding pool to attract talent to the city through partnerships with the industry and education providers, Mr Little said.

''The potential is huge for Dunedin and great for New Zealand as a whole - and yet very affordable.''

Labour would provide the $10 million over 10 years from its previously announced regional development fund.

Cr Staynes, Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie and Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan were all enthusiastic about the project because it built on what was already happening in the city.

Cr Staynes said often in the past when regional development funding was announced, most of it was spent on planning.

This time, the money would be used to grow an existing industry, something Dunedin was already well known for.

Industry representatives at the announcement also welcomed the proposal.

Members of the industry said the chance for young entrepreneurs to stay in Dunedin after graduating from the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic would create economic growth and job opportunities to bring other people to the city.

Labour regional development spokesman and Dunedin North MP David Clark said discussions had been held with the university which was supportive of the plan to establish the chair of computer gaming.

Both a Labour government and the university would contribute $1.5 million each - a total of $3 million and more funding than some of the historical professorial chairs - in the desire to attract international talent.

The $10 million in funding would be administered locally by businesses already established in the ICT industry, Dr Clark said.

''We want to make sure we create the right environment for those people working away in their flats and garages on their project. This will give them access to publishing software, mentoring, motion capturing studies in order to be the best internationally they can be.''

Code was the first of a series of initiatives Labour would announce this year to expand regional economies to further develop the skills and expertise of local people.

Labour wanted to ''breathe life'' into the many parts of New Zealand being neglected by the current Government, he said.

Mr Little said each region had its own strength which needed to be developed and central government had a role to play in the development.

Government statistics provided figures which gave a stock take but not a plan for growth.

''We can't afford, as a country, for people to be drawn to
Auckland which is already severely overcrowded, stretched and where people tell me is increasingly harder to live.''

If the regions did well, New Zealand did well. Sixty percent of New Zealanders still lived in the regions, he said.

The regional development fund put locals in the driving seat of their own economic futures.

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