Idealog's Guide to Dunedin: The hills are alive
As someone who grew up in Invercargill, spent five formative years expanding/eroding my mind at the University of Otago and, then, after a short jaunt overseas, returned home and got my first proper job as a feature writer at the Otago Daily Times, I will always have a soft spot for Dunedin.
As a student, I had never really stopped to consider it as somewhere a fully-grown, fully-functioning human adult might live. It was to me, and to many other younger residents, an extremely enjoyable, very energetic but quite transient place; a stepping-stone to other, bigger, supposedly better places. But when I unexpectedly ended up working there, started meeting other young professionals and found myself earning enough money to live in a nice house where you couldn’t see your breath in front of your face in the living room, frequent the vast array of slightly more reputable eating and drinking establishments, and invest in a few toys to make the most of the region, my perception of the city changed considerably.
After almost four years in that job, I ventured overseas again and eventually ended up in Auckland. But whenever I visit Dunedin (my sister, a teacher and musician, still lives there), I think to myself: ‘I could definitely live here.’ My wife, who grew up in Dunedin, says the same thing. And as a father of three young children, with the inevitable difficulties of raising/ferrying kids around a major city still to come, it’s not outside the realms of possibility. As property prices in the major cities continue to rise, more and more people seem to be saying the same thing. But the big difference now is that moving to Dunedin no longer seems like much of a sacrifice. In fact, many would argue it’s a good life decision.
It’s fair to say the city has been a bit of a slow poke on the economic front in recent years. But, through a combination of good luck and good planning, it’s evolving quickly and whether it’s the burgeoning tech start-up scene, the impressive street art, the potential afforded by the Gig City roll-out, the heritage architecture, the vibrant fashion and hospitality scene, or the easy access to nature, it is a city on the rise [as masterfully detailed in the ODT by a former colleague David Loughrey] and it’s doing a good job of combining the appeal of the old with the opportunities of the new.
As the cover of an Enterprise Dunedin press pack says in quintessentially upfront southern style: “In here you will find slightly biased, but mostly true information about Dunedin.” That’s also the case with Idealog’s first city guide. But, as you’ll see in the following pages, there are some good stories, some good reasons for the growing sense of optimism among the residents, and some compelling reasons for people over the age of 23 and under the age of 80 to consider the city as a place to visit, live, work or invest.
By Ben Fahy