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Dunedin as an innovation hub

Civic leaders from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all talk of their city as the nation’s leading innovation hub.

Each city has a case:

  • Auckland is big. It has New Zealand’s largest and best university. There is an international airport. Most international technology companies are based there. It may have more knowledge workers than any other city in total, but they are spread out — the city has nothing resembling an innovation quarter.
  • Wellington is compact. It has the highest number of knowledge workers per square kilometre. Most work within walking distance of each other. That’s important. Innovation works best when innovators interact with each other. Informal regular contact is best. Wellington is also home to New Zealand’s best-known tech companies including Xero, Weta and TradeMe.
  • Christchurch combines elements of both Auckland and Wellington. The city’s mayor Lianne Dalziel is the civic leader pushing innovation hardest and the planned innovation precinct will help.

Is Dunedin going to enter the picture?

Now the Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says: “Dunedin will be knowledge and innovation centre under Labour”.

At first this looks worrying. While it’s not good to put all your innovation eggs in one basket, there’s a strong case for concentration, especially in a small country.

However, Cunliffe is mainly talking about keeping the AgResearch facility at Invermay. It’s an important research centre, vital for New Zealand’s economic future.


The current government plans to run down the Dunedin centre and move many of the jobs to Lincoln near Christchurch seem to have run into resistance from key staff who refuse to move north.

This echoes one of the first blog posts posted on this. It was written six years ago and describes knowledge workers:

Any employer who abuses knowledge workers’ professionalism is likely to see their most important assets walk out of the door. This applies as much today as it did when there were more jobs around. Knowledge workers are in demand everywhere. They will end up working for and where they are most appreciated.