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Council Defunding Of Christchurch’s Arts Centre Will Put Rates Up

By not continuing its funding support of Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre, the Christchurch City Council thinks it’s saving on rates. But it will actually cost the ratepayer MORE because of the flow-on effect, says The Arts Centre director Philip Aldridge.

He is responding to the City Council’s Draft Long-Term Plan, out for public consultation on March 18.

“The Arts Centre has always had Council support. No arts and heritage precinct this size can survive without public funding,” he said.

“Without Council funding, The Christchurch Arts Centre Trust will have to be dissolved because when the current Council funding runs out on 30 June, the Trust will be heading towards insolvency.”

The Trust owns, on behalf of the citizens of Christchurch, a whole inner-city block of 23 heritage buildings – 20 of them fully restored on time and on budget since the earthquakes and now humming with activity. Last weekend, for example, there was a multitude of multi-cultural arts, food and entertainment at the annual Off Centre arts festival.

“The Arts Centre is thriving. Why mess with it?” Philip Aldridge said.

“The Council is being short-sighted. It’s trying to save money, but it will cost the ratepayer a lot more in the future. There’ll be legal fees and other costs as the Trust dissolves. The Arts Centre is owned and run by a citizens’ Trust and governed by an Act or Parliament; it’s likely the High Court will have to find a new owner. This is likely to be the City Council. All the increased costs will then fall on the ratepayer. This is a case of short-term gain for long-term pain.

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“If that happens, the Council will still have the same costs such as $1.2 million annual insurance. They’ll still have to focus on arts and culture activities and events, because the Act says so. Maybe they think they can change the Act but there would be a public outcry. Norman Kirk stood up in the Town Hall in 1973 and gifted this to the people of Ōtautahi Christchurch as an Arts Centre. The Act is there to stop anyone interfering with that gift.

“We’ve cut costs to the bone. We’ve cut back on staff; some took wage cuts and staff are paid less than equivalent Council employees. We’re already run on a shoestring. Most of the creative events are funded by other grants, sponsors and private donors and we are supported by fantastic volunteers, including the trustees. None of this would be available to a Council-run Arts Centre. The costs would fall on the ratepayer.

“It would be a sad place under bureaucratic ownership. There’d be none of these activities and events, footfall would decrease rapidly and the main income from the tenants would dry up as they leave a lifeless, hollowed out Centre. We don’t believe the Council could run The Arts Centre as well or as cost-effectively as we do,” he said.

“The Council’s ownership would spell the end of The Arts Centre. It would fail.”

The Council has always supported The Arts Centre. It works, it’s loved, why destroy it?


The Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust Act 2015 vests ownership of The Arts Centre of Christchurch in a Trust on behalf of the citizens of Christchurch. Its 23 buildings cover an entire inner-city block. All but three have been fully restored and are much improved than before the quakes.

The Centre is now the home of over 70 organisations paying market rates, covering arts, performance, creatives, entertainment, cinema, food and beverage, education, three museums, Te Whare Tapere Māori arts space, and the soon-to-be-opened Ngāi Tahu creation story permanent exhibition.

Core tenants include the University of Canterbury School of Music, the popular Observatory Hotel (with night-time stargazing open to the public), and the now-thriving Health Technology Centre (seen by ChristchurchNZ as an economic driver for the city).

One million locals and visitors flock through the doors every year to community funded cultural events from kapa haka to opera, from Sculpture and Matariki Festivals to children’s theatre and circus arts.

How much is needed?

The Arts Centre’s insurance bill is now $1.2m per annum. (It used to be $125,000, before restoration). Rates add another $205,000 pa.

We’ve asked the Council to absorb the annual insurance bill into its own group insurance scheme; to rebate the rates; and to provide an annual grant to cover some of the operational costs.

Saving The Arts Centre would amount to just over $1 a month for the average household.

© Scoop Media

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