University's value to city highlighted

The massive contribution University of Otago makes to Dunedin has been highlighted in a report showing it boosted the city's economy by $820 million last year.

The report's release comes after the university last week unveiled a $650 million building programme, which has been tipped to create hundreds of jobs in Dunedin.

The university's annual economic impact report, tabled at yesterday's council meeting, said the university had a ''far-reaching'' impact across many sectors of the economy.

''This impact is most pronounced in Dunedin, where the institution plays a fundamental role in the ongoing vitality of the city's economy,'' the report said.

The report calculated the impact of organisational expenditure, spending from its 21,113 students and 3752 staff and then using economic multipliers calculated the flow-on effects on other business activity.

It showed total expenditure - both direct and flow-on spending by other businesses - generated by its campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Invercargill was $1.59 billion.

Of that, $1.4 billion was generated by the university's activities in Dunedin, with $819.9 million calculated to have remained in the city's economy, generating 12,504 jobs in the city.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the report underlined how important the university was to Dunedin.

However, he did not believe Dunedin was overly reliant on the university.

''There's enough evidence that the university is a significant player economically, but I also think we have got quite a strong primary sector. You look at what sort of trade volumes are going across [Port Otago].''

The university also tabled a comparison of its financial performance compared with other universities which showed, when it comes to assets, income and expenditure, Otago was only behind the University of Auckland.

The information, based on the 2013 annual reports of all New Zealand's universities except Lincoln, showed the Otago had less debt and more assets tucked aside for spending than other institutions.

With $1.66 billion in assets, Otago University was only behind Auckland University, which had assets worth $1.92 billion.

The $120.2 million Otago University held in ''cash and cash equivalents'' was considerably more than any other New Zealand university.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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