DCC Planning and Spending based on Presumed Growth

Against DCC modeled predictions, a net loss of 2,000 people voted with their feet to leave Dunedin for other parts of NZ last year, when the rest of NZ population is growing at 1%.

We need to know why: to help arrest the decline and to be able to plan appropriately for actual growth.

One clue as to why people left has subsequently been available by looking at age. “The estimated population decline over 2020-22 was predominantly driven by a net loss of residents aged 20-29. This is the age group that is traditionally more mobile.”

Regarding our student population “datasets suggest that the net decline in Dunedin residents aged 20-29 is not predominantly caused by overall tertiary education trends…”
Another clue may be the 2021 DCC Residents’ Opinion Survey:
Largest decreases in satisfaction in 2021 to 2020

  • Satisfaction with cleanliness of streets (down 16 points to 48%)
  • Satisfaction with DCC supporting Dunedin’s economic development (down 15 points to 32%)
  • Satisfaction with the performance of Mayor and Councillors (down 15 points to 25%)
  • Overall satisfaction with the DCC (down 14 points to 40%)
  • Satisfaction with the look and feel of the central city retail area (down 14 points to 51%)

The DCC can not afford to keep borrowing in an increasing interest-cost environment, to spend on supplying infrastructure for growth that is not happening.

DCC models for growth have been wrong for the last two years, and hoping for high growth when the data shows unexpected decline should cause us to investigate causes and review projections and budgeted spending.

The DCC 2022 graph ‘rebased growth projection’ ignores any reasons for the prior 2 year decline and restates the previous optimism by simply adjusting the starting point downwards.

The ODT report below lists various levels of Councillor denial.

“Councillor wants to know why people have left


A DUNEDIN councillor says the city needs to work out what it has done to ‘‘scare off’’ people to other parts of New Zealand.

The latest population data shows a recent drop and then lower projected growth than had been anticipated, prompting two councillors to declare they believed higher growth would materialise and one to be labelled a grinch.

A report for the council about housing capacity noted Dunedin lost an estimated 2400 residents between July 2020 and June 2022.

‘‘We need to figure out what it is we have done here in Dunedin to essentially scare off quite a significant number of people to other parts of the country,’’ Cr Lee Vandervis said.

Higher population projections were used when some key council documents were shaped, such as the 2021-31 long-term plan.

The population drop for Dunedin was mainly a consequence of migration within New Zealand, the council was told at a meeting this week.

Cr Vandervis speculated possible factors included the city having a less business-friendly rating system, or differential, than other centres, ‘‘divisiveness in the past few years about how Dunedin develops’’ and a generational schism.

‘‘I look forward to getting some more information, as has been promised, on who left and hopefully that will give us some idea of why.’’

His commentary contrasted with views offered by several other councillors, most notably Christine Garey and Andrew Whiley.

‘‘I have great faith in this city and I believe we’ll hit that high-growth target again,’’ Cr Garey said.

Cr Whiley, who highlighted the Covid-19 pandemic and immigration settings to help explain recent data, was frustrated population trends and projections about capacity needed for housing seemed to signal underwhelming ambition or vision.

‘‘I see faster growth for our city,’’ he said.

Cr Vandervis said he felt like a grinch, an assessment endorsed by Cr Jim O’Malley, and Cr Vandervis reflected on Cr Whiley’s optimism.

‘‘It’s fairly well established that optimists have happier lives, but pessimists have a better grasp of reality,’’ Cr Vandervis said.

The council is using the Statistics New Zealand medium-level scenario for population change to help shape policy about capacity for housing and business growth.

Factors in the mix include recently relaxed housing development rules, zoning changes, environmental imperatives, adjusted population projections and the pipeline of expected work, potentially including public housing.

The council was on track to go close to planning for a high-growth scenario, city development manager Dr Anna Johnson said.

Cr Garey was one councillor who said it was prudent for the council to be nimble, enabling planning for high growth, should this be needed.

Cr O’Malley said the council needed to be in a position where it could respond to growth.

The council endorsed using a medium-growth scenario, as well as adding in some strategic planning, such as having a sharper focus on community and social housing aspirations.

The Otago Regional Council adopted the same approach.

Cr O’Malley said this did not get in the way of high-growth ambition.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said the population ‘‘blip’’, together with housing capacity and scope for improvement in productivity, presented opportunities for the city.

It could increase use of technology to better harness the efforts of the population and its ‘‘brain power’’. grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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1 Response to DCC Planning and Spending based on Presumed Growth

  1. KolA says:

    Well, previous council was so bluntly corrupt and antidemocratic. Add an almost communist central government on top of it, with increasingly obvious looming epic failure of great hospital rebuild (for some reason all great “projects of the century” led by communists end up in total disaster), plus gangster takeover of water assets etc. it’s no wonder that young and talented are fleeing this city in panic.
    Why would they stay? To compete for poorly paid jobs with nearly zero growth opportunities in toxic centralized and bureaucratic environment?

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