Today’s folly, tomorrow’s asset?

Did the people of North Otago protest about the money being spent on the buildings which are today valued for making Oamaru the whitestone capital of the country?

If the opposition which greeted the proposal to refurbish the town’s Opera House is anything to go by I am sure they did because one person’s vision is another’s folly and it almost always takes time before it becomes an asset.

I’m using the term asset loosely because Opera Houses don’t usually make money.  If it’s looked at on a strictly financial basis I suspect it could be regarded as a liability but money isn’t the only measure of value.

That’s not to say money isn’t important and that’s the main reason for the opposition to the stadium which is planned for Dunedin. People are concerned at not just the cost of building it but also the on-going costs it will impose on ratepayers. That debate has moved to the High Court after Stop the Stadium imposed on injunction on the project.

However, the affordability of the  project can’t be judged in isolation and I agree with the ODT editorial which said:

Alone, the stadium represents a relatively low level of risk for ratepayers and a handsome return in terms of city facilities. Its construction will provide considerable short-term benefits to the city for contractors and labour.

To deny that its existence will not enhance the city and benefit the region is simply absurd. But this project is not on its own. Both councils have several other very costly irons in the fire and their debt projections have quite pointedly illustrated the quantum of risk to the ratepayers. . .

In setting spending and debt priorities for the next 10 years or more at a time of a recession of unknown direction or depth, limited civic public works can be demonstrably beneficial but in a city the size of Dunedin – largely ignored in the Government’s plans for such a programme – these must be prioritised in terms of need, benefit, and cost to ratepayers. . .

. . . the city could defend proceeding with the stadium on this basis, because of the potential short and long-term economic benefits – particularly the association with the university – but if it chooses to do so, it must minimise the debt load on ratepayers by deferring other projects.

We can’t have everything we want and councils, like individuals, have to weigh up the costs and benefits of what they might do before choosing what they can do, knowing that saying yes to one project means no for others.

If the stadium goes ahead – and the Dunedin City Council decided on Monday that if the injunction fails it will – it will be at the cost of other projects which will have to be delayed or turned down.

But if it goes ahead it will be an asset for the city and the province, and not just for those of us here now, in much the same way that the Opera House has provided value for several generations.

If those who regarded the Opera House as a folly had prevailed it wouldn’t be here for us to enjoy today.

The foresight and work of people more than 100 years ago provided an asset for us now and the vision and work of those behind its refurbishment have ensured it will still be there providing value and being enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.

One Response to Today’s folly, tomorrow’s asset?

  1. Neil says:

    I live in Gore where we have spent a lot of money on reserves,art and heritage facilities. There is a constant feedback of the beauty and facilities in our town of 8500 from people outside the town.
    We have a small outspoken group,mainly disaffected rural people, who want Gore to revert to a East Germany type bomb zone. Spend nothing,stop a Christmas parade to reduce spending and using personal attack rather than arguing the actual case.
    I admire people like Allan McLay in Oamaru who was treated badly by the electorate and now Peter Chin in Dunedin.
    The anti-stadium are a pack of negatives nobodies headed by has beens from the past.


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