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Arts For Both The Body And The Soul

Helen Clark, Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, says the government's recently announced investment package into the arts, culture and heritage sector is important for economic growth and jobs.

It is through the arts and through cultural activities that 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.

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.

Our vision is for vibrant arts and cultural activities which all New Zealanders can enjoy and through which a strong and confident cultural identity can emerge.

We also believe that a strong and vibrant creative industry sector can provide sustainable employment and economic growth within an innovative environment. In this way we acknowledge both the intrinsic value of the arts and culture and the enormous economic benefits which can flow from a strong creative sector.

Employment in the cultural sector is significant and growing more rapidly than in many other sectors. It is estimated that the cultural sector contributes approximately $4 billion per annum to New Zealand?s GDP. The cultural sector has the potential to be among the key growth industries of the 21st century. World wide, there is huge growth in the service sector around industries based on creative talent, such as in design, architecture, fashion, new media, and the internet.

Th arts, culture and heritage package announced on Thursday will build on the already significant contribution that the creative and heritage sector makes to the New Zealand economy. Just as Te Papa has boosted the Wellington economy, regional initiatives, such as the new Christchurch Art Gallery and the Edwin Fox restoration in Picton, can have a large, positive impact on regional economies through increasing regional tourism and foreign exchange earnings.

The film industry, as the Lord of the Rings project is proving, can be a major creator of new jobs and opportunities. The new government investment in the film industry has huge potential to boost jobs and opportunities, and to make a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy and export earnings.

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. The Film Production Fund, in which the government is investing $22 million, 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. 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.

Thursday's package 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. Our arts infrastructure has been very fragile with key parts of it close to collapse. This funding aims to rebuild it.

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.

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