Dunedin uses art to be the “coolest city in the South Island”
30 Aug 2017
With a long tradition of craft, music, writing, art and design, Dunedin’s vision is to be a liveable and prosperous city where creative endeavour thrives.
In late 2015, after working closely with an enthusiastic local community, the Dunedin City Council published the city’s arts and culture strategy Ara Toi Ōtepoti – Our Creative Future and is well on the way to bringing that vision to life.
Three-quarters of local residents believe the city has a rich and diverse arts scene and the focus on arts is helping to revitalise areas of the city and attract substantial private investment.
“Creativity is now recognised internationally as essential for a successful modern city and is key to Dunedin’s future,” says Mayor Dave Cull.
The strategy has encouraged a wealth of arts projects and initiatives. Local government is working in partnership with the community, key people and organisations, and national and international bodies to make “magical” things happen.
Warehouse precinct revitalisation
Once the city’s hub of commerce and industry, the historic Warehouse Precinct had gone into decline, with many buildings needing to be strengthened and restored. The community and the council have worked hand in hand to develop a suite of ideas to rejuvenate the area.
Incorporating art and design into the physical improvement – bespoke furniture, street art and innovative lighting – is encouraging new creative industries to take root in the restored heritage buildings.
Inspired by this approach, the local business community has invested in a street art programme that now boasts more than 25 artworks in and around the precinct.
The council has supported progress by lining up funding and aligning financial and non-financial incentives, such as having street art outside private buildings once upgrades are complete. A public investment of $1.5 million in the area underpins private sector investment of more than $50 million.
UNESCO City of Literature
Dunedin became New Zealand’s first UNESCO Creative City when it was awarded City of Literature status in 2014.
The 116 city network is a catalyst for partnerships between cities. It is a key component of Dunedin’s Ara Toi Ōtepoti strategy to lift its “creative game”.
Momentum is building. The Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival has been re-established giving residents from Dunedin and the surrounding area a chance to see and hear local and international talent. This has in turn led to the New Zealand Young Writers Festival starting in the city.
The relationships developed by the Creative Cities Network also generate opportunities – Dunedin poetry has been projected on city walls in Krakow and featured on posters in Prague.
This year Dunedin successfully bid for a complimentary booth at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. It was an unprecedented opportunity to profile the city and New Zealand children’s authors and their work to an international audience.
This is one of four case studies on how local authorities are using the arts to improve lives in their communities. For more case studies see The Arts: Working hard for your community 2016 (pdf 900KB) - prepared for Local Government New Zealand Conference 2017