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Hon Jim Anderton: Speech at SPADA Conference

19 November 2004



My colleague, the Hon. Steve Maharey Delegates

I want to start out by thanking Spada members for the warm level of co-operation I’ve enjoyed. This is an industry with some almost unbelievably talented people. There are some strongly held views about the best way to unleash that creativity. I’ve heard a fair selection of those views, it’s true, and I’ve also heard the passion of the industry. There is shared vision among screen producers for New Zealand’s potential, and for your industry’s potential contribution to it. There is no better place to start.

I enjoy working with this industry. You’ll think it’s corny – but I’ve been a screen buff since I was in short pants. Two of my kids worked in the industry. I’ve always seen it was an industry with immense potential to contribute to New Zealand.

This is greater than an economic issue. It is about New Zealand’s self-confidence. When I look at what the screen industry has done for some other countries, I see the modern expression of national identity. We see ourselves, and we understand ourselves. We shape ourselves and we take responsibility for moulding our own identity.

And there is no doubt in my mind that we have not done that enough in the past.

I doubt there is anyone in the industry who would question its potential contribution. The issue, of course, is about the best way to develop it. This coalition government has put its stake firmly in the ground for a partnership approach. The Labour-Progressive government is committed to working with the industry. We are not going to stand on the sidelines and wish you well. We will play our part.

The right approach is, of course, a topic open for discussion. But if there is one message I want you to take from here, it’s that this government is listening. My door is always open to you. New Zealand film has had a good year in 2004. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been followed by Whale Rider. New Zealanders and New Zealand films received thirteen Oscar nominations across three films. The Film Commission says Whale Rider became New Zealand's second most successful film ever released here (that’s taking Lord of the Rings out). Ten months after release it had grossed $6.4 million. More than 846,000 New Zealanders saw the film. And now 'In My Father's Den' – a powerful piece of social commentary with stunning New Zealand backdrops.

We need to build on our successes. Everyone here aims for New Zealand to be more than just a great location. In the year since I last came to your conference, many important initiatives have swung underway.

Some examples: Funding for the Film Commission and the Film Archive has been significantly increased. More co-production agreements have been signed, recognising the potential benefits for both participating countries’ screen industries of collaborating on joint projects.

The Large Budget Screen Production Grant has been set up to provide a financial incentive for the production of both foreign and domestic large budget screen projects in New Zealand.

It will help to push along our film-making infrastructure.

These are important steps, and they should be welcomed. They are making a difference. But the excellent progress of the industry depends on more than grants, more than policies and much more than a series of policy initiatives. Its momentum depends on a sense of direction. We need to have some cohesion as we select our priorities. Setting up the Screen Council has therefore been a notable achievement.

The Council was a top recommendation of the Screen Taskforce. The coalition government has provided funding of $450,000 a year for two years. The Council is taking ownership of the growth targets set by the Taskforce. The goals are ambitious: To achieve foreign exchange earnings of $400 million a year within five years. The Taskforce set a goal of having ten companies each turning over at least fifty million dollars a year; and at least another 20 achieving annual turnovers of $10 million.

Contemplate for a moment those ambitious goals. They were set by your industry. If we achieve them, everyone in this room will be proud. I am proud that we have come as far as setting these goals; that we have ambition and determination to achieve them. I want all New Zealanders to believe in themselves and to imagine how much more we can be. This industry more than any can reach for the stars. It has begun. There is an old saying, that if you plan for nothing you will surely achieve your plan. We are planning to succeed – and we can.

The Screen Council’s work has begun. It has co-funded the Film Business School in Martinborough and New Zealand’s participation in Enterprise Tasman: Business Strategies for Independent Producers. It is working on the implementation of Screenmark and industry training. It’s also working on new screen sector statistics with Statistics NZ, the government’s Digital Strategy and the possible Free Trade Agreement with China. This is a huge issue, with important intellectual property implications for New Zealand and the Council’s contribution has been important.

The Council has also worked on possible enhancements to the Large Budget Screen Production Grant criteria and I am pleased to announce that they are releasing a discussion document for industry consultation, which will be distributed at the end of this session.

In the discussion document, the Screen Council raises the issue of bundling.

The Council notes that while the existing grant provides a platform to attract large-budget offshore productions to New Zealand, it is difficult for the domestic sector to access opportunities offered by the grant.

I agree that it will be counter-productive to try to attract additional offshore productions without strengthening the capability of the domestic sector.

The Council proposes allowing bundling of 3-5 productions to be completed within a defined period.

Bundling was one of the more vexed issues considered at the time that the Large Budget Screen Production Grants scheme was announced.

At the time of the announcement of the scheme, the government noted that we wanted to further consider the bundling issue and I welcome the Council’s input on this issue.

Capability development and funding are also of major interest for the screen production industry to support larger scale New Zealand productions, develop crew depth and provide job continuity. In this context, the Council also proposes: A possible levy on screen productions funded by the Large Budget Screen Production Grants scheme, which could be used for industry training and other sector development opportunities. Allowing productions that have received government funding from sources such as the Film Fund and the New Zealand Film Commission to access the large budget grants scheme.

These are the Council’s proposals, not the coalition government’s.

I cannot promise that any or all the options presented in the discussion paper will come to pass but I can promise you that the government is taking the process seriously.

The government has already stated its intention to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the Large Budget Screen Grant by 2006 and the Council's final submission will be a welcome input.

I give you my commitment to represent and present considered views of the Screen Council and the industry fairly and strongly to Cabinet as a champion of this icon New Zealand industry.

The Council is seeking comment from the industry by the end of February. I encourage you to provide feedback.

Both the government and the industry are benefiting significantly from having the Screen Council raise issues like these.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has also worked on some exciting initiatives with the industry. One is the Auckland Screen Major Regional Initiative. It is an application designed to accelerate the establishment of Auckland as an international centre for screen production and postproduction. It proposes that $2 million be used to enhance Auckland’s screen infrastructure, marketing and professional capabilities. This proposal is the result of excellent work by the Auckland Regional Economic Development Strategy group and Film Auckland.

Good results have already been achieved in Wellington, where a Major Regional Initiative has created a sound stage. It enables the Stone Street Studios to provide an integrated world-class studio to clients.

So the government has been able to make some valuable headway by working in partnership with the industry. In the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s review earlier this year of screen funding arrangements, the industry indicated it wanted government agencies to work together better. I know that one example the industry is interested in is the respective roles of Film NZ and Investment NZ. Both organisations work together on international marketing, but it is currently not as clear as it could be just who is responsible for what and how industry can be better engaged in offshore promotion. I'm not interested in making change for change's sake and my sense is that the two agencies are working well together. I can advise you that the Ministry of Economic Development is reviewing this issue, with the support of the Screen Council, and will be making recommendations to responsible Ministers by the end of February.

We’re making a lot of progress, and I hope we will make more.

Your industry is the embodiment of creativity in our economy. Creativity and talent more than anything else are the ingredients of our economy’s prosperity. It’s my job as Minister for Economic, Industry & Regional Development to unleash them. The days are gone when New Zealand could make a world class living by being a low cost producer of commodity goods. Today, if we want the living standards of other developed countries, we need to produce high-value exports. I want high quality social services – health care, education and secure jobs for all New Zealanders. We need to build a base of high-value exports to pay for these services. Value is the direct result of creativity, and our uniqueness. We need to learn to be world class at turning our creativity and uniqueness into commercial businesses. We need to do better at plugging into global value chains and earning global dollars from our New Zealand skills.

It’s my conviction we need to work in partnership if we’re going to take the steps we need.

We need to get a lot of things right. Our own industry skills. Our international marketing. Our industry regulation and infrastructure. Our tax rates.

The government is moving on all of these. As my colleague Steve Maharey will tell you (if you ask!), my party, the Progressive Party, is even moving on the company tax rate. But no single policy will make the difference.

But a single-minded attitude will. Unleashing and exporting more of our creativity is immensely important to New Zealand. It has the potential to transform our industrial base.

Experiencing more of our production on our own screens is vital to our own sense of self-confidence.

We need, as a nation, to be truly ambitious. We need to be fiercely determined to be better than any other country. We need to try things out and celebrate success. These are good times to be a New Zealander. After so many years, at last we have begun to see how successful we can be. There has never been a time in the lives of most New Zealanders when our economy has been so strong, when there has been as much unity of purpose and we have had so much potential.

Your industry will be an increasing part of our success. The coalition government is committed to working with it, to help grow our local screen production industry. We’re making excellent progress. I look forward to our continued collaboration, co-operation, partnership and success.


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