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PM Arts Speech - “Building Cultural Identity”

Embargoed until 12.30 pm
Thursday 18 May 2000

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


Launch of Arts Funding Programme

“Building Cultural Identity”

Grand Hall
Parliament Buildings

12.00 pm
Thursday 18 May 2000

In May last year I announced that should Labour have the honour of leading a government, I as Prime Minister would take a close personal interest in the arts and culture in our country.

I said then that our creative people help to define us as a nation, and that through them we express our unique national identity.

This speech not only aroused a lot of interest. It also aroused a lot of hope – hope not just that there might be more funding, but hope that at the centre of a new government there would be greater recognition of the value of arts and culture to our country.

The letters and queries began to come in, asking whether I really meant that I might become the Minister for Arts and Culture.

I have to say I was a little reluctant, because I know how busy Prime Ministers are taking a broad overview of all policies – and how reluctant Prime Ministers are to get too immersed in any one area.

But in the end, I put those reservations aside. I believe that arts and culture have been undervalued in our political culture – and that one way to demonstrate how important and indeed how crucial their role is was to throw the weight of the Prime Minister’s position behind the portfolio.

Judith Tizard, now my associate minister, and I then proceeded to finalise our policy for the sector.

In that policy statement released last November, entitled Uniquely New Zealand, we said that through the arts and through cultural activities we New Zealanders express our aspirations as a nation, who we are, and where we stand in the world. It is through these endeavours also that we express our cultural identities: as individuals and within communities.

We noted that New Zealand is a nation with a strong and diverse cultural history; a history of tangata whenua, of colonialism, of development, and of creativity. Culturally we possess a rich vein of materials of the images, sounds and colours of the Pacific and beyond. We draw on the strong indigenous heritage of Maori and on the rich traditions of European, Pacific and other cultures.

We noted in Uniquely New Zealand our pride in our diverse cultures, and we said that a well developed arts and cultural sector is integral to the vision we have for New Zealand.

We articulated our vision for vibrant arts and cultural activities which all New Zealanders could enjoy and through which a strong and confident cultural identity can emerge, and for a strong and vibrant creative industry sector which provides sustainable employment and economic growth within an innovative environment. In that way we acknowledged both the intrinsic value of the arts and culture and the enormous economic benefits which could flow from a strong creative sector.

We said that we would give top priority to arts and culture and the creative industries. Indeed we were conscious that this sector has the potential to be among the key growth industries of the twenty-first century. World-wide, there is huge growth in the service sector around industries based on creative talent. New Zealand with its talented people has the potential for its creative sector to do exceptionally well and make an even larger contribution to our economy.

These, then, were our broad aspirations. We outlined many specific policies as well. We said we would invest an extra $25 million in arts, culture, and heritage in the first term of a new government.

In December we formed our new government with our coalition partner, the Alliance, very supportive of the arts and cultural sector.

We started reading the briefing papers. My heart sank. It became clear that so many of our treasured arts, cultural, and heritage organisations were in a parlous state. Our cultural infrastructure was very fragile indeed.

I began discussions in January with the Minister of Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, about the enormity of the problem. He was very sympathetic to a cultural recovery programme which aimed to stabilise the arts, culture, and heritage infrastructure, and to investments in the sector which would contribute to economic growth and to the development of a unique national identity.

It became clear that there was an opportunity to invest in the sector in the current financial year in a way which could put a number of our arts, culture, and heritage organisations on a firmer footing. More modest funding improvements could then follow over the next three years.

All up in the current financial year to 30 June, we are injecting more than $86 million extra, and in each of the three subsequent years more than an extra $20 million. These figures are all GST inclusive.

Let me tell you first about the extra support we are giving Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand. We have decided to provide Creative New Zealand with an extra $20 million, to be paid immediately. Creative New Zealand’s funding has been static for many years. It has been able to provide only around one dollar for every five dollars requested of it.

Creative New Zealand is an independent statutory body, and the government does not dictate to it the detail of how it spends its funding.

But organisations funded by Creative New Zealand make a contribution to our nation’s cultural life which is very highly valued by this government. Auckland, for example, would be much the poorer without the presence of the Auckland Philharmonia.

In our view, these excellent performing arts organisations deserve the opportunity to plan with certainty. In providing $20 million to Creative New Zealand immediately, we have a clear expectation that it will, in part, be directed towards the fragile performing arts infrastructure. The additional funding will enable Creative New Zealand to make multi-year commitments to key performing arts organisations, giving them unprecedented security of funding.

The government is keen to see more, smaller arts projects supported too. Securing the financial positions of some of the big organisations now will free up money from existing sources over the coming years. I look forward very much to the activities which will result from this funding being available.

Secondly, I want to tell you about a major new initiative we are backing for the film industry. The film industry is a success story, but it has as yet untapped potential. For it to develop to its full cultural and economic potential, more investment is required.

The government is committing $22 million immediately to the establishment of a Film Production Fund.

The objective of the Fund is to support film-makers to produce second and subsequent films with larger budgets and higher production values. It will provide a bridge between the subsidised, low budget first films which the Film Commission has traditionally backed, and fully commercial productions.

The Fund will be a non-government body. This allows the more commercial side of the development of the New Zealand film industry to be undertaken by a specialist organisation, and will maximise the economic advantages of this industry. The Fund is expected to attract significant private investment.

Film is a very powerful medium. It is able to influence the way we see ourselves and our country – and the way the rest of the world sees us too. This government will continue to support the New Zealand Film Commission and the work it does towards a mix of cultural and commercial objectives.

But if we really want to grow this industry – and we really do, we need to be hard-nosed about
the kinds of productions that will attract off-shore support. A separate organisation will not be constrained, as the Film Commission is, by the need to balance commercial and cultural imperatives. It can focus on the commercial objectives – and we can all reap the benefits in terms of greater economic activity and jobs.

For the same reason we are also investing $2 million in the establishment of a Music Industry Commission. It will be a non-government body. Its activities will include fostering the composition, performance, recording, and marketing of New Zealand popular music, developing and promoting New Zealand popular music nationally and internationally, advocating for the industry, and playing an educational role.

Popular music has a key role in our culture. And what we really want is for young New Zealanders to hear more of their country in their music, and for us all to experience the cultural and economic advantages this brings. The Music Commission will help this to happen. We believe there is huge commercial potential in New Zealand’s contemporary popular music industry.

New Zealand music will also get a boost from an extra $2 million funding to New Zealand On Air for its music related work. New Zealand on Air will have $5 million more to spend on New Zealand television and radio programmes, with an emphasis on children’s TV.

This government is committed to increasing local content on radio and television. These funding moves will be complemented by local content quotas.

There will also be an injection before 30 June of up to $27.9 million into NZ On Air to make up for its cash shortfall following the last government’s abrupt abolition of the Broadcasting Fee.

Unfortunately many New Zealanders just stopped paying the fee in the present financial year leaving NZ on Air far short of its normal revenue collection. We are ensuring that it is not financially embarrassed.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has also been operating under significant funding pressure.

For that reason we are injecting $3 million of capital into the Orchestra in the current financial year to stabilise its financial position.

There will be an extra $1.4 million per year invested to maintain the Orchestra’s financial viability.

We are proud of the high international standard of performance of the Orchestra and want to ensure that it continues.

Te Papa is to receive an extra $2 million per year in operating funding and an extra $9 million capital contribution each year.

The previous government stipulated that Te Papa provide a certain level of service. It did not, however, provide the funding to support that level of service. The funding being announced today enables Te Papa to maintain its current level of operation.

The $9 million per year extra capital funding will enable Te Papa to set aside $3 million each year for new acquisitions and to renew and develop its exhibitions. The government wants Te Papa to be viable in every sense.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is to receive an immediate $3 million capital contribution. That will go towards its Historic Places Preservation Fund and its Maori heritage development fund, and to upgrading and enhancing the Register of New Zealand’s heritage.

The Trust will also receive additional annual operating funding - $170,000 this year, and a half a million dollars a year extra from next year – to enhance its heritage protection activities nationwide.

The new funding for the Trust is crucial if it is to fulfil its statutory mandate to protect and preserve historic sites. Under the previous government its funding was cut and it was forced to go through a painful restructuring. Our new government is determined to see the Trust’s work restored.

For the New Zealand Film Archive there is an immediate payment of $943,000 to enable the establishment of a Film Archive Development Fund.

The Archive has a growing and invaluable collection of our visual heritage, which it needs to house and preserve safely. It also needs an active acquisition programme to secure material at risk of deterioration and loss.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is to receive an immediate payment of $760,000 to stabilise its working capital position. Deficits over a number of years have eliminated the Ballet’s working capital, resulting in it operating for a period of each year in overdraft. That in turn restricts its operations and programming. The Ballet, like the NZSO, performs to exceptionally high standards and provides enormous pleasure to audiences throughout New Zealand.

The government is also making one-off payments in acknowledgment of two other key cultural initiatives.

We will contribute $6.474 million in capital towards the development of the new Christchurch Art Gallery, recognising the significance of the institution and its collection to our national culture. The Robert McDougall Gallery which has housed the collection hitherto has done an outstanding job which can only be enhanced by the new facility. It will be a major arts and economic asset for Canterbury.

There will also be a contribution of $300,000 towards the Edwin Fox restoration project in Picton in acknowledgment of the very great historical significance of the vessel.

The sailing ship Edwin Fox has a Category One Registration from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It was built in India in 1853. It is the only surviving wooden troopship which served in the Crimean War in 1854; it is the only surviving wooden convict ship which sailed to Australia, arriving in 1858, and it is the only surviving wooden immigrant ship to New Zealand, arriving in 1873.

The Edwin Fox is a hugely significant part of our historic heritage. The government wants to support its preservation. Through that, the attraction of Picton as a heritage tourism destination will be enhanced.

Lastly, there is a funding increase for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, with a particular emphasis over the next financial year on developing broadcasting policy. The Ministry will receive an extra $1 million in the 2000/2001 financial year, and an extra $600,000 each year thereafter to enhance its ability to advise on cultural policy.

Funding will also transfer to the Ministry from the Department of Internal Affairs, along with the activities of what is now the Internal Affairs’ Heritage Group. These activities include the production of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and a range of other historical publications; and the management of national memorials.

These changes mean that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage will at last look something like the organisation which was originally envisaged when, ten years ago, the Fourth Labour Government took steps to establish it.

The package I am announcing today makes it very clear that our new government has a major commitment to the arts, culture, and heritage sector. It opens up enormous opportunities for economic, arts, cultural, and heritage development. I urge the sector to use the funding wisely. This is a recovery, restoration, and building programme of a magnitude which is unlikely to be able to be repeated in the future.

New Zealand is but a small nation in an increasingly globalised world. What is unique about us are our arts, our culture, and our heritage. In the twenty-first century, they will define us as the confident, proud, and creative peoples we are.

Our cultural renaissance sits alongside our transition to a new economy, our reassertion of the timeless New Zealand values of fairness, opportunity, and security, and our determination to have our voice heard internationally on disarmament, development, human rights, and the environment. I believe we as New Zealanders can enter the twenty-first century full of pride for the unique contribution we have to make.

Thank you for coming to this launch today. Judith and I and our colleagues look forward to working with you to see that the full potential of this great sector can be reached.


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