Opinion: The Awakening of Dunedin

Is Ōtepoti approaching a new Gold Rush?

With its historic architecture, Scottish heritage, distinct character, and intellectual roots Ōtepoti is referred to by its locals as Aotearoa’s best kept secret. Over the last two decades, the South Island has witnessed the rebuild of Christchurch and seen significant economic growth in the Wanaka and Queenstown Lakes Districts. One could be mistaken for overlooking Dunedin as a destination to live, work and thrive.

Following the announcement of the new Dunedin Hospital development in May 2018 Ōtepoti is approaching an unprecedented period of economic growth. The outpatient building is scheduled for opening in 2025 and the inpatient building is scheduled for opening in 2028. These two major developments are part of a Health Precinct Master Plan that integrates the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic with the hospital, creating a precinct that couples clinical health with translational research, teaching and vocational education. The hospital alone will contribute an estimated $439m GDP to the Dunedin economy and will employ 1000s of construction workers, consultants, managers, and subject matter experts.

The University of Otago is also finalising its master plan after two years of COVID related interruptions. To leverage the return of international students and peak school leavers, the new Te Rangi Hīroa College is under construction with extensions underway at Aquinas College. The Food Sciences Precinct is under development and remedial activities are taking place in the Science III building. The University of Otago Property Services division has been on a transformational journey since 2019 that has involved a major upgrade to its IT management systems, and application of the International Standard ISO 55001 Asset Management System. This has involved the division finalising a 20-year Strategic Asset Management Plan aimed at reducing its $250m deferred maintenance portfolio, intensifying the use of its buildings and achieving Net Carbon Zero by 2030. Excluding its major project developments, Property Services is forecasting a capital maintenance spend of around $50m over the 2022-2024 period and a further $70m over the 2025-2027 period. This will see the University working closely with the construction sector in the delivery of projects such as laboratory, residential college and seminar room refurbishments, roof replacement programmes, boiler upgrades, seismic strengthening, asbestos removal, mechanical system upgrades, fire and life safety upgrades and infrastructure repairs.

Other core activity in the city includes the Otago Polytechnic’s new training centre He Toki Kai Te Rika, “A Tool For Your Hand,” expecting to cost $31.7m, opening in September 2023. Dunedin’s main shopping street George Street is undergoing a significant upgrade turning it into a slow one-way traffic route with new paving, street furniture lighting and public art, along with much needed replacement of old wastewater and stormwater pipes, with a price tag of $28.2M being undertaken by the Dunedin City Council. Waka Kotahi are planning significant road infrastructure upgrades to arterial routes over the coming years, to improve mobility and safety within the city. Ngāi Tahu and the ACC Investment Team are building a new state of the art office with 8000m2 of office space in central Dunedin for ACC on land formerly owned by Dunedin City Council with construction underway. The Otago Regional Council will have new offices in the site formerly occupied by the Warehouse in the Exchange area of Dunedin.

Following years of underinvestment in its built environment and infrastructure, Dunedin is entering a period of significant economic growth that provides an opportunity for New Zealanders looking to leverage from the private and public investment in real estate, technology, and space intensification.

Author | Dean Macaulay

MBA, BBus (Prop), CertPS (Ops), MIoDNZ

Director Property Services, University of Otago

Dean Macaulay is a property leader with multi-national experience in strategic asset management. Shareholder and community focused, Dean has built teams and managed high value balance sheets across diverse and complex property portfolios in Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East.

Dean is a member of the University of Otago executive leadership team as its Director of Property Services and is responsible for the built environment and infrastructure strategy. This involves governing a portfolio with a replacement value of $3.8B. The complex portfolio includes dental hospitals, research laboratories, teaching facilities, commercial offices, registry, recreation services, halls of residence and general campus.

Dean is member of the Property Council New Zealand South Island Executive Committee and Chair of the Universities NZ Property Committee. Dean holds a Bachelor of Business (Property) from RMIT University and relocated with his family to Dunedin from Melbourne, Australia in 2018.

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