In Dunedin and the Otago region there is a controversial issue with a fight brewing, to build another rugby stadium instead of an Institute of Design.

StopTheStadium has documented an amazing break down in process regarding the stadium idea, to the point that most people here must think there is corruption in our local, regional and national government processes. I suspect it is more like shrewed business people taking advantage of public, media and administration blind spots while initiating the project, and using that to build up and create unstoppable momentum for their short sighted aims. In short, its a classic case of lobbying for a project where the gains are private and the risks are public.

I can’t for the life of me see the worth of building an international grade rugby stadium down here, but I can certainly see the sense in developing the Institute of Design. It will certainly cost more to build the stadium than their spokespeople have publicly announced, and considering we can’t fill the stadium that already exists, I don’t see any evidence that another one will suddenly boost interest and sustain it long enough so as to fill the seats until the debt is paid off.. I might see the sense in an upgrade of the famous “Brook” though. Even if Dunedin did turn into the capital of the South with a population big enough and cashed up enough to be able to pay off the thing, I honestly can’t see what improvement it will bring to Otago industry, business, education, imagination and over-all sustainability.

Another, far less controversial proposal is on the table at the same time. The Otago Institute of Design, but the public funding pegged for that is being pulled!? Even without knowing any more about the Institute than its name, it is far more obvious how such a thing would contribute to Otago’s economic, industrial, business, educational and sustainable development.

Otago Polytechnic and Otago University are bringing their design departments together to form a new Otago Institute of Design. By pooling their expertise and resources they are creating a centre of excellence for design right here in Dunedin. This initiative will also take collaboration between design educators across NZ and the design industry to a new level, for instance, with their high-tech prototype and modeling facility that will be the most comprehensive currently available in Australasia.

But wouldn’t you know it, the Federal Government looks set to withdraw their 12.5 million dollar loan to develop the Institute, instead directing their funds to the rugby stadium to the tune of 15 million!

I can’t work this out. Rugby stadium / Institute of Design which one will have more bang for its buck when factoring in all bottom lines? When our local economy starts to feel the pinch of international trade and resource depletion, and we are in need of fresh and new innovation, what will help us? A game of rugby or a few thousand designers developing new technology and testing new ideas?

The only good thing I can think of about the stadium is that with its huge glass cover it will make a great biosphere to grow the food that we can longer import because the ships, trucks and trains needed new parts and different fuel.

This letter is sent to:
The Minister of Finance Hon. Bill English b.english@ministers.govt.nz
and Prime Minister, Hon John Key j.key@ministers.govt.nz
cc. Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Education a.tolley@ministers.govt.nz