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Government's Cultural Spending Through the 1990s

Public expenditure on culture in the 1998/9 financial year totalled $598 million, with local government spending a further $286 million, said Acting Government Statistician Dianne Macaskill.

The figures come from a new report jointly published by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Ms Macaskill notes that while the data in the report excludes the new cultural sector funding package announced in May of this year, the figures provide good information on spending through an entire decade.

"They show, for example, that the Government's cultural expenditure per head of resident population increased through the 1990s. In 1990/91 it stood at $112. By 1998/99, at constant prices, it had increased to $142 (a 27 percent rise over the decade)," says Ms Macaskill.

The latest estimate of the contribution of cultural goods and services to GDP is 2.8 per cent (for the year ended March 1996).

According to the report, almost three-quarters (71 percent) of public expenditure on culture in 1998/99 was through parliamentary Vote appropriations. NZ On Air was responsible for one-fifth at $122 million (a higher than normal figure to allow for extra spending on debt recovery following the discontinuance of the broadcasting fee), while the remaining 9 per cent ($51 million) comprised cultural grants by the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.

The range of activities the report defines as cultural is varied. The Vote with the largest amount of cultural spending is Vote Education, where early childhood funding recorded around $290 million in 1998/99. The second and third largest Votes that year were Cultural Affairs ($43 million) and National Library ($35 million).

Among the organisations funded by Vote Cultural Affairs in the last decade were Creative New Zealand, Te Papa, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Film Commission. Throughout the 1990s the total Vote Cultural Affairs was greatly affected by capital spending on Te Papa.

Local government's cultural spending is dominated by libraries. In 1998/99, libraries received $149 million (just over half local government's arts and culture spending that year). Halls cost local government $50 million and grants to community groups cost almost as much ($49 million). Local government gave a further $38 million to museums.

Government Spending on Culture 1990-1999, is the fifth publication in a cultural series released by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. It is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two agencies to improve the range and quality of statistics on the cultural sector. The latest report retails at $20. It is available from Statistics New Zealand and can be ordered through the department's website. Some data from the report is also available on the website (

Dianne Macaskill Acting Government Statistician

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