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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

Dunedin is one of the world’s great small cities for arts and culture, offering the cultural life of a much larger place in a remarkable natural setting.

Creative people are attracted to small cities because they are easier to network in, provide a vibrant community in which to develop and share ideas, and offer an affordable, good quality of life. Dunedin presents these opportunities and much more, from splendid isolation to connection with the world through the city’s great networks and world-class cultural and academic institutions.

The Lonely Planet dubs Dunedin the “coolest city in the South Island.”

Not only do creative people want to base themselves in Dunedin, but many residents are keen consumers of creativity and participants in arts and culture.

It’s clear that creativity isn’t a discretionary activity. Cities around the world, and their residents, profit in myriad ways from their cultural and artistic endeavours.

This strategy places arts and culture at the top of the agenda, as a way to achieve Dunedin’s ambitions of being a liveable, prosperous and amazing place to be.

The Dunedin scene today

Institutions like the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum and the Otago Museum give Dunedin a heavyweight feel. Theatres, like the Fortune, and the city’s many galleries and libraries, the vibrant maraes of the Kāi Tahu settlements of Ōtākou and Puketeraki and the Araiteuru urban marae, where artists thrive, add to this strong network of cultural facilities. This framework supports smaller scale activity in the city.

The city’s thriving and internationally respected music sector ranges from counterculture in the footsteps of the Dunedin Sound to the esteemed Southern Sinfonia. Literature also holds a strong place in Dunedin, which was awarded UNESCO City of Literature status in 2014.

The highly regarded University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic have reputations for learning and research excellence in creative fields ranging from theatre studies to science communication. The tertiary sector also brings thousands of young people to live and adventure in the city each year, injecting Dunedin with the dynamism of youth as creators
and consumers.

There are a raft of internationally active and innovative creative businesses that call Dunedin home – from NHNZ’s groundbreaking television productions to Taylormade’s digital design.

IntroductionDunedin Fringe Festival 2015 | Josh Thomas

“There is a perception that the city is mono-cultural but we have a deep and proud history of early cultural cross-overs that are an integral part of being here – that’s how I got here!”

Simon Kaan, Kāi Tahu artist, educator and surfer

Dunedin has a strong annual programme of festivals, such as the internationally-renowned iD Fashion Week and iconic community events such as the Midwinter Carnival and Puaka Matariki.

Informal and spontaneous creativity abounds: noise gigs at Chicks Hotel, fire performers on the Museum lawn, and a giant wheat-pasted image of Queen Victoria regally surveying Queens Gardens from the side of a building.

The distinctive blend of the historic and the contemporary, of tradition and exuberance, make Dunedin a city of surprising contrasts that drive innovation and creativity.

Creativity, prosperity and quality of life

Arts and culture have been an important part of Dunedin since its founding. Creativity is now recognised internationally as essential for a successful modern city, and key to Dunedin’s future.

As New Zealand’s Core Cities research puts it, ‘creative industries contribute to the buzz of a city, strengthen brand and identity, and attract talented workers.’ This is most clearly demonstrated by evidence showing the creative industries are also growing more quickly than traditional industries.

Dunedin’s creative sector plays a major role in the city’s economy, contributing, in 2013:

  • over $74 million to Dunedin’s GDP; and,
  • more than 1,300 full time equivalent jobs.

It is understood that the majority of these jobs are part-time or short-term contracts, spread across a large number and range of employers and types of cultural activity. With the average NZ household spending on average $35 a week on cultural goods and services, the number of people employed in the creative sector looks set to continue to grow.

Research from Creative New Zealand shows the majority of New Zealand’s population believe arts and culture help define who we are as New Zealanders. Almost all adult New Zealanders attended at least one arts and culture event a year, a considerably higher level of participation than that seen in other countries.

KapahakaHe Waka Kotuia | Photography by Justin Speirs

Dunedin citizens consistently report, through the Residents’ Opinion Survey, high levels of engagement and very high levels of satisfaction (over 90% in 2014) with a range of Dunedin arts and cultural offerings (including the Otago Museum, Regent Theatre, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum) demonstrating their importance to the community.

International research has demonstrated how participation in arts and culture contributes to improved wellbeing and civic good. Arts and culture are powerful tools for advocacy and allow communities to share and communicate ideas on an equal footing, fostering more resilient and engaged communities. These benefits have led many of the world’s cities to develop arts and culture strategies that drive activity to maximise that contribution and promote sustainable development. Such strategies allow councils and communities to act with confidence as new initiatives are proposed, focusing a city’s activities and funding, and supporting public debate and contribution.

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