Using what you’ve got:  Learning from Dunedin NZ

I was fortunate to be asked to speak at the 2016 New Zealand Planning Institute conference last week. Twice actually, for the Young Planners and the main conference. 

It was in Dunedin, a city that I’d visited once, many moons ago. This time I got to know it in more depth. It’s an interesting story.
Dunedin boomed after a gold rush and was the largest city population in NZ from about 1860-1900. It has struggled for population growth since, and is now more of a university town, and with a population of around 120,000, the country’s fourth largest city. It’s climate is not a great attribute either (although we enjoyed 5 days of beaut weather). Its setting is, though, with the city ringed by green hills, on a great harbour and with the fabulous Otago Peninsula on its doorstep.

So it’s a mixed story. But that history meant that the city has a wonderful store of building built when great building were built; and relatively few from the times when pretty awful ones were built.   


That wonderful stock of history and heritage is now arguably the city’s greatest asset. One that it is working hard via a very proactive city council on the front foot collaborating with developers and the community to unlock this asset in the form of renovated adaptive re-use. This is most notably in the wonderful warehouse district, where the stock of great industry buildings are being adapted for housing, tech based businesses and eating places. 
 This phenomenon is being referred to as a “heritage led recovery” with some justification.

My learning from that: use what you’ve got, cities!


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