Dunedin, a great place for business?
Dunedin: losing out?
The possible loss of another 100 Dunedin jobs to Christchurch through the centralising of Farmlands is a blow but probably an event that would have been well foreseen given the recent merger of CRT and Farmlands. I suspect any action now to stop this happening will be too little-too late, but I will continue to harp on as these job losses highlight the importance of business growth and agriculture to our region in terms of that “trickle-down” effect and job creation. Unfortunately, right now, if we were in a race, Christchurch would be lapping us and Dunedin would be looking much like me when I attempt to race one of my sons-somewhat indescribable.
So is it a case of “last left, turn out the lights”? Is our city going to remain a University town with employment dominated by the public sector and the odd spin-off company allowing us to wave our ineffective little flags to say…yes -with a very small y- we’re still open to business? I sincerely hope not, or my dream of Dunedin being a place my children will actually want to live in will be just that, a dream, not a reality.
So what do we do?
First of all, we need to ask ourselves, culturally, can we handle success? A growing Dunedin will mean: business growth, international investment and more employment, but it will also mean more wealthy people, more Audis, more Mercs and more boats. Are we going to be comfortable with that? They are comfortable in Queenstown, Tauranga and Hamilton, small cities which are all out-growing us…how do we feel?
If we think we can handle success then what are we going to do on the regulation front? I recently heard New Zealand described as the “land of the long red cone”- wherever you go, there is a red cone guiding you to safety. Instead of spending all our energy on regulation, how about our local council provides rates relief for business growth, rates holidays to attract new business or to keep Farmlands here? What if our regional council put their energy into modelling and working with dairy farmers to determine ways to farm with lower nitrogen application without losing production, instead of just “sticking on a Nitrogen cap”. And then, beyond regulation, what is our profile as a city? Why is it that ag-investors come as far as the Waikato and don’t come South? What can we do to attract investment and the employment that investment brings?
Get back in the race
I know this all makes me sound like a regimented, slightly madcap right winger, and not in the rugby sense. That’s not who I am, but I am unashamedly pro-business growth and what it can do for our city. In my view there is no physical reason why Dunedin cannot get back in that race and start to grow again, our city forefathers travelled many miles into the unknown to create wealth and a better way of life. We don’t need to up sticks and live on the other side of the world, but we do need to do things to arrest what is currently happening to our city. We need to create a “culture of do” where, in the words of previous Christchurch Mayor Vicky Buck, we have “some freedom and some fire and fun and some finance” to turn Dunedin into the progressive city it needs to be…if not, please turn out the lights when you leave.