A city with history

Dunedin house values continue to rise. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin. Photo: ODT files
It should come as no surprise, although there will be some, at the news Tauranga has overtaken Dunedin to become the country's fifth-largest city.

Doomsayers will quickly say this is an example of a dying Dunedin, an economy in tatters, failure to attract new immigrants from either Auckland or overseas and the general neglect of the region by the powers that be. Nothing can be further from the truth, except perhaps some neglect from the Government as it shores up votes in the two major constituencies of Christchurch and Auckland.

Tauranga is the beneficiary of several factors peculiar to the north of the North Island, not the least being housing affordability. People have been locating to the Bay of Plenty city for the so-called lifestyle which includes beaches, the city's natural environment and a strong economy anchored by the Port of Tauranga. Tauranga also gets credited with having a moderate climate, something Dunedin can also claim compared to the winters experienced by, say, Christchurch and Invercargill.

Dunedin has all the factors being touted by Tauranga officials, and the strong economy is being not only anchored by a very vibrant Port Otago but also by the University of Otago and the associated offshoots such as the Medical School and the School of Dentistry. The influx of students each year provides a vibrancy of which other cities can only dream.

The economy is also supported by the ever-growing Otago Polyechnic and the high-tech sector, anchored by companies such as NHNZ, Animated Research, Scott Technology and ADInstruments.

There are significant differences in the cultures of Dunedin and Tauranga, mainly Tauranga is now a desirable destination for older people selling their houses in Auckland and buying something less expensive in the Bay of Plenty. Dunedin does not have a flood of retirees moving into the city, although recent growth in Mosgiel suggests older people are finding the Taieri a satisfactory place to retire.

Dunedin has history, landmarks and an undeniable culture of arts, sport, education and wildlife. This is a city which, no matter the size, has played a major role in the establishment of New Zealand, something to which Tauranga and Hamilton can never aspire. The facts speak for themselves when it comes to doing it for ourselves in the South. When government services were cut in size and frequency, there was a general feeling of gloom and neglect. That was until people started noticing how enterprising Otago is as a region. Otago has always been a region of exporters and now, the region is exporting not only fruit and produce but also services through technology.

Education is a prime example of how the region can provide expertise for a world craving higher standards in education. ADI sells its medical equipment knowledge around the world, Scott Technology sells globally, ARL is known internationally for its success in the sporting tracking field and NHNZ continues to reach new heights with its top-end documentaries.

A minor matter but important is Dunedin has two constituency-elected MPs and two from the list, one of whom is a cabinet minister and one a co-leader of a party. Tauranga has one elected MP, who is a cabinet minister, and one from the list. Political influence can play a large role in how the gravitas of a city is measured.

So, let us not concern ourselves with size, which does not matter in this case. Dunedin residents should rejoice they live in a heritage city, one which stretches back in history with links to Maoritanga obvious to all who look. The links also extend back to some of the first European settlers to settle in New Zealand, to the discovery of gold and the development of a rich and precious heritage through a mixture of Maori, European and Chinese culture.

These are the things which make a city special and they should be celebrated.


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