Dunedin’s growing contentment

It is time to consign Dunedin's habitual discontent to history.

For a time our weather, isolation, strong links to the supposedly dour Scots and misery at our falling fortunes served as excuses.

But the predisposition to self-flagellation is running out of legs on which to stand.

While Dunedin's true golden age ended in the 1920s, the city had experienced such wealth, growth and investment in the preceding decades that its role as an economic heavyweight continued for years to come.

But by the 1960s that golden glow had faded to the point where one of the country's most impressive and important buildings, the Dunedin Stock Exchange, was pulled down.

Head offices relocated north.

Population stagnated.

Dunedin was in the doldrums.

And despite flickers of growth and hope the city slipped ever further behind Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The University of Otago's success in many ways saved the city yet, ironically, helped solidify its bleak reputation as students from around the country were met by old, cold and damp houses in a city down on luck and struggling to rediscover its place in the world.

The students filtered back to their home towns with tales of frigid winters, abandoned buildings and limited entertainment.

Those tales were accepted as fact by many, including many locals.

But times have changed. A recent ODT Insight report revealed a growing surge of interest in Dunedin from families around New Zealand looking for a healthy, prosperous lifestyle; families bringing money, skills and energy.

Meanwhile, the city's technology and tourism sectors are thriving, its sports teams continue to succeed and its presence in the national and international conscience continues to grow.

This time the stories are all positive.

And why wouldn't they be?

Dunedin's natural beauty is an asset scores of tourists continually remind us of.

The proximity of Central Otago, the Queenstown Lakes and the Southern Alps is the most decadent of cherries on top.

The city boasts extraordinary infrastructure and public facilities for its size.

No other city in the country has anything to rival Forsyth Barr Stadium and, while that exercise came with a big price tag, the city's rates are still comparatively low.

Dunedin's libraries and art galleries are well stocked and presented, its roads flow freely and the city centre functions like a vibrant centre should.

Out-of-town families must look at Dunedin's education options with disbelief.

Our high schools offer diversity in concept yet uniformity in quality and are easy to access.

Our primary and pre-school facilities are as good as anywhere in the country.

The university and polytechnic provide jobs, students and infrastructure but also churn out world-class research and graduates.

Improving internet infrastructure is bringing the world to our keyboards and touchscreens.

Southern winters are becoming less of an issue as housing improves, with new homes virtually unaffected by the cold and older homes benefitting from the retrofitting of insulation, double glazing and draft stopping.

At the same time Auckland's famed sunny summers have been accompanied in recent years by concerns around swarms of houseflies, jellyfish, sea lice and mosquitoes, nuisances unheard of here.

Of course, there are still those who are jobless, struggling to find suitable accommodation, to put food on the table or in their kids' schoolbags.

Those problems exist in Dunedin and must be indefatigably challenged, tackled and solved.

While not settling for such circumstances, we must bear in mind those problems exist in every city.

The current upsurge for Dunedin may not be a boom of mythical proportion with gold ingots springing from the soil.

But Dunedin is in the throes of growth, spark, confidence and regeneration.

As a city, residents should embrace it, open their homes and lives to new neighbours and challenge themselves to appreciate what Dunedin has.

Comments

I think the optimism of the author disrespects the view only a blind could miss on passing the empty shop windows in George Street because once thriving businesses are gone and are not being replaced. It spells recession.

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