A season of change

1 Jun 2022

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Stephen Wainwright
Posted by Stephen Wainwright

Chief Executive - Pou Whakahaere

As June breaks, we head towards Matariki, the winter solstice, which means we’re also near the end of one July-to-June government year and the start of another. So, it’s a time of transition; finishing up with the present year and planning for the next.

Poipoia te kākano kia puāwai
Nurture the seed and it will bloom

In recent times we seem to have been constantly juggling transitions and dynamism.

The world seems to be ‘getting on with it’ irrespective of the COVID context. As I’ve been getting out and about a bit more lately, it’s been evident that there’s some pent-up demand for engaging with the arts, now that there aren’t constraints on congregating – this is of course a good thing.

What may be less visible or obvious to the public are the ‘work-arounds’, risk management and COVID-induced ‘adjustments and changes’ that are a necessary part of how things are now, so that arts activity – and the consequential public enjoyment and congregation – can actually happen. It’s no surprise that creative workers are smart and creative, but I want to both applaud this mindset and acknowledge the personal wear and tear that comes with it.

One of the consequences of the phase we’re in, as you may have seen in the Government’s recent Budget, is that the funding lines around one-off COVID support are being kept as just that; one-off and temporary.

Consequently, at Creative New Zealand we have less to invest for the coming financial year than we did in the last few years, as our 2022/23 programme (released today) shows. An upside to the many interventions enabled by additional Crown investment over past two years or so is that we’re mostly still here as a sector; and as a sector, we’ve learnt some new things, we’re pretty tired, but we’re doing our best to get on with what it is we’re here to do.

There are some other transitions from the last two years that are very important overhangs in terms of the next phase of the Arts Council delivering to its strategic direction. I’ve outlined some of these below.

Post-COVID transition

The extra investment and support for arts and culture via the Government has been terrific and beneficial. A lot of enterprises and activities have benefitted from the good water of public investment. We all know what happens when we stop watering though – what then are the investment intentions for the medium term?  

Wellbeing transition

The shift to a more holistic view of what makes a country successful beyond economic wellbeing is timely and appropriate. Changing the settings to really give effect to these ambitions remains a challenge.

We saw a lot about wellbeing in the submissions provided from the sector to Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture & Heritage, on their Long-Term Insights Briefing issues paper. People were keen to understand how the sector could support the Ministry and Ministers to make more of the opportunities that arts, culture and creativity can contribute to social, environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing.

The transition to this is probably essential to ambitious progress – how can we contribute to this? 

Transition from the periphery to the core

To look at it from another point of view, history suggests every government finds it very challenging to make significant changes to investment in culture, relative to other things. Culture is on the budgetary margins. By our reckonings (and please let us know if you land elsewhere), the whole vote for Arts, Culture and Heritage is around 4 percent of the Crown’s core expenses of $158.5 billion.

To zoom in with another turn of the microscope, the $16.689 million baseline investment we receive from the Crown through Vote ACH is about 0.01 percent, or one one-hundredth of one percent, of the Crown’s core expenses.

Investment transition

Through legislation, Parliament gave us a job to do for the people of New Zealand in 1964. In 2022, we’re finding a very challenging gap between our aspirations for the arts and the public resources we have available to do the job.

Just to be totally clear, in the coming year we’ll also receive $4 million from the Crown on top of our baseline funding, to support the terrific Pasifika Festivals Initiative advanced by the Minister that runs to June 2023.

The predictability of this Crown investment is great; of course, we’re disappointed that we weren’t successful in attracting positive attention in the May 2022 Budget as others in the portfolio did. We’ll be looking to understand why this is, as we’re acutely aware that the resources we have to support the arts are a key driver of the public value we can contribute via the arts community.

Many readers will be aware that most of the public investment we receive is from the public via lottery proceeds. Although the current year numbers are yet to be finalised given the year has a month or so still to run, we’re expecting the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board contribution to be a bit better than the initially budgeted $51 million. So, the general trend here is our friend.

 

As mentioned earlier, a dynamic context continues to be the norm. This blog is just a little signposting about how things are shaping up, but they do change regularly. Signing up for alerts on Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage’s programmes is never a bad thing and we will, as always, continue to advise on our own landscape through our newsletter and other channels.

In my next blog, once we’ve finalised our Statement of Intent at the end of June, I’ll put a bit more flesh on the bones of how our work will respond to our upcoming strategic focus areas of: Resilience; Access, inclusion and equity; and Wellbeing. It was heartening that we had a record 175 submissions from the arts community on the Statement of Intent discussion document earlier this year. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed for your informed counsel and support.