Mayor tells audience city economy is ‘in good shape'

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin believes the city is in such good shape its citizens can give themselves a pat on the back.

In his annual ‘‘state of the region'' address at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery yesterday, Mr Chin told an audience of 100 that the city's economy was ‘‘in good shape'' and ‘‘our increasingly affluent population'' continued to grow, albeit slowly.

He noted ‘‘strong and steady'' demand for the region's goods and services and that the city was ‘‘having the best summer in 10 years''.

‘‘We are, I suggest, entitled to give ourselves a gentle pat on the back and indulge ourselves with a modest smile of satisfaction about our lot.''

The only cloud on Mr Chin's horizon was the ‘‘spectre'' of Canterbury University students' Undie 500 that ‘‘wreaked havoc'' in the student quarter last year and ‘‘caused more damage to the reputation of the University of Otago and the city than any other event''.

Mr Chin dealt with the difficulty the council faced spending ratepayers' money referring to ‘‘much hand-wringing'' in the council over spending.

‘‘Do we live within our present means and deny the community of some current or future facility because we can't afford it now, or do we say ‘we need this, it's an opportunity that's unlikely to come our way again and we need to find a way of affording it now'?''

Mr Chin reflected on 18 ‘‘big ticket'' items completed over the past 10 years, including such projects as the upgrade of the St Clair Esplanade and the airport terminal and the building of the Chinese garden.

He did not mention the $188 million stadium proposal or the planned $47 million Dunedin Centre redevelopment, but noted that the only councillors who lost their seats at the last election were two who were ‘‘routinely'' opposed to major expenditure on anything except roading, water and sewerage.

In one of the lighter moments, while discussing the redeveloped University Oval cricket ground, Mr Chin suggested: ‘‘What would make it perfect would be if someone would drive a bulldozer through a certain building down there.''

The location of the historic former art gallery is restricting the length of the boundary.

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