Looking to the year ahead in a COVID world – reflections, lessons, key funding opportunities for 2021/22
20 May 2021
“We’re now about 14 months on from when we shifted into Emergency Response mode. As an arts community we can, and should, do some canny manoeuvring that’s a combination of crossing our fingers for ongoing good fortune, patting ourselves humbly on the back for amazing resilience and determination, and giving a big hug to those who have uplifted us since March 2020.”
Kia ora e te whānau
With Matariki fast approaching, it’s timely to reflect on where we’re at and the path we’ve all travelled. I know from my conversations with colleagues in the sector, a lot of us are carrying some of the psychic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where we were this time last year
As a nation, our response to COVID-19 has left us in a position that’s the envy of other parts of the world. Clearly, it’s good to be where we are in Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiva, surrounded and secured by the biggest moat on the planet.
Sensible people in government leading us and a sensible citizenry is clearly helpful in a crisis – one which has been felt nation-wide but with uneven impacts for its people. Amongst the hardest hit sectors in our country is of course the arts, which depend so much on human congregation.
This time last year we were incredibly anxious to leave no stone unturned to ensure that artists, arts practitioners and arts organisations and groups would not suffer irreparable damage because of COVID. The Arts Council figured that the worst impacts would be when we were all locked down, and that things would get better.
We went hard and early (as the saying goes) to refashion our offerings and address the crisis head on, and spent much of our reserves doing so in April, May and June 2020. The Government broadly did the same thing and made COVID resources available to Creative New Zealand which were vital to helping minimise harm in the financial year that began 1 July 2020.
Let’s stay cautiously optimistic
It’s too early to play a victory fanfare, particularly if we look around the world and see just how COVID-19 keeps coming back when we think we have the upper hand. However, the importance of ongoing vigilance shouldn’t disguise the fact that as an arts sector and arts community there is much to celebrate.
We’re now about 14 months on from when we shifted into Emergency Response mode. As an arts community we can, and should, do some canny manoeuvring that’s a combination of crossing our fingers for ongoing good fortune, patting ourselves humbly on the back for amazing resilience and determination, and giving a big hug to those who have uplifted us since March 2020.
Importantly, given the centrality of the public value of the arts to our work, it’s clear from our latest New Zealanders and the Arts research (hoving into public view soon) that for many, these ‘COVID times’ have amplified the significance of the arts for our wellbeing. Benefits for wellbeing both as participants and makers and as attendees and audience communities; the joy of coming together to engage with the arts has not diminished when people feel it is safe to do so.
This is no small achievement. It makes my heart sing that I am attending an Orchestra Wellington concert this Saturday that is already sold out. Looking back a year ago, it was only in my most optimistic moments that I would have visualised this outcome.
Looking to the year ahead
With the end of our financial year approaching (30 June), I wanted to help share Creative New Zealand’s high-level plans for the next financial year to support the arts. We promised to keep the arts community informed about our financial context – even if we can’t provide all the details just yet – as we know this has a big impact on the value we’re able to create for New Zealanders through our public investment in the arts.
The Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa (our governing body) recently set its first draft budget for the next financial year which, for us, follows the cycle of the Government financial year from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022. It also agreed a draft plan for the upcoming financial year.
Overview of our core opportunities for 2021/22
We’re still firming up the finer details of the overall plan and budget, but today we can confirm some initial funding opportunities and timings for the upcoming financial year. We’re working on other initiatives and will share more as these are confirmed.
Before I elaborate further on our financial context, I’m aware that many people in the arts community will be eager to know what support is available – so here’s the crux of it:
- While we won’t have as much pūtea (money) to invest in the upcoming financial year as we did in the current financial year (2020/21), we’ll still be investing significantly more than we did in 2018/19 – prior to COVID-19. The graph below sets this out.
- Drawing on what we’ve learnt this past year, for our grants funding we’re prioritising investment into a simplified programme to support artists and arts practitioners.
- We'll be offering six Arts Grants rounds, with a five-week turnaround for decision-making.
- We're making Annual Arts Grants’ eligibility criteria more flexible.
- Arts Grants and Annual Arts Grants will open on 5 July.
- We need to retain some flexibility in our budget in the event of further COVID-19 impacts to be able to do more should a COVID-19 resurgence take place.
- We’re continuing with some special opportunities for artists, our usual annual awards and our scholarships, as well as the Creative Communities Scheme.
- We’ll continue to deliver COVID-19-specific recovery opportunities through the Government’s arts and culture COVID recovery programme – this includes the Pacific Festivals Initiative and the Toi Ake – Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku Fund.
- We’ll reframe our support in the international space to adjust to the changed environment.
- We’re still developing its capability and investment programmes – more on this to come.
The graph below sets out our investment context for the previous financial year, the current financial year and next financial year. I’m going to break this down a little further, but you can see the big investments made into helping the arts sector weather the COVID storm.
2019/20 (the previous financial year)
The 2019/20 year (1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020) was one like no other – the year COVID arrived. We quickly swung into action and rolled out the first phase of our response, our COVID-19 Emergency Response Package.
We said that we’d leave no stone unturned to support the arts community as best we could. To do so, we used most of our financial reserves – the rainy day had truly arrived. As a result of this purposeful investment, we were able to elevate our Phase 1 Response to a total of $28 million.
2020/2021 (the current financial year)
In the current financial year (1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021), we received a one-off additional $25 million in core funding from the Government to support artists, creative practitioners and arts organisations through COVID-19. This was on top of the $16.7 million we receive annually as our core funding. We also received a further $5 million tagged to specific initiatives under the Government’s Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme. We were delighted to use this extra investment to further support the arts community.
Our main source of revenue continues to come from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, which distributes the profits of Lotto NZ. In a normal year, around two-thirds of our revenue comes from the Lottery Grants Board, with one-third coming from the Government.
It’s normal for the amount we end up receiving through lotteries to be different to that predicted at the start of the financial year. For the current financial year, lotteries revenue is now forecast to be $70 million; $9 million over what was initially budgeted for.
This is of course very welcome news, as 2019/20 demonstrated how vital it is to have financial flexibility so we can respond rapidly to support the sector in the face of any emergency.
The record level of revenue we’ve had over 2020/21 has allowed us to provide a range of COVID-19 targeted activity as part of our COVID-19 Phase 1 and Phase 2 responses. The outcome of all this is that, with others, we’ve been able to help mitigate the harm felt by the arts sector at a time when many practitioners and organisations couldn’t operate as normal.
2021/2022 (next financial year)
At its recent April meeting, the Arts Council set its first draft budget for the upcoming financial year (1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022). The 2021/22 financial year is, in essence, Phase 3 of our COVID-19 response.
Overall, Creative New Zealand’s revenue for 2021/22 is forecast to be $71.2 million at this time (compared to the $82.3 million we’d predicted for 2020/21 at this time last year). As you’ll see from the commentary on 2020/21 though, the actual revenue we work with fluctuates quite a lot depending on the available contribution from lotteries.
This overall revenue still includes a sizeable $7.75 million investment through the Government’s arts and culture COVID recovery programme, including the Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kotuku Fund, Culture Sector Capability Funding, and the Pasifika Festivals Initiative.
Our focus for 2021/22
As in recent times, we’re aiming to deliver a fit-for-purpose and affordable 12-month programme to support the arts sector to continue to survive, recover and thrive in a COVID-19 world.
Our offerings for the upcoming financial year are a blend of what we offered pre-COVID and some of the important changes that we’re responding to.
For example, we’re retaining some elements of our Phase 1 and 2 COVID-19 responses, including more frequent arts grants rounds which enable practitioners to nimbly respond to changes in the external environment.
As you can see from the graph above, there’s less money to invest in this upcoming financial year than the year before. In order to invest as much as we can into grants funding and to ensure we can be highly responsive to the sector, there will be some special opportunities, initiatives and pilots that we won’t offer in the 2021/22 year – a tough decision which was not taken lightly.
We’ve shared these decisions and snapshots of key opportunities in this story on our website
Our funding calendar provides the suite of opportunities, at this moment in time, across the year.
What’s happening next
As is customary, the Arts Council will further refine the budget in June and August 2021. By June we should have more information about Lotto NZ’s profit targets for 2021/22, and our final annual investment (through to June 2022) will be confirmed by the Arts Council at the end of August as part of finalising our 2021/22 budget.
After this, we’ll be in a position to share a fuller 12-month investment plan (July 2021 – June 2022); in essence, what we’ll call our Phase 3 response to COVID-19.
We’ll provide a further update, after the late July Arts Council meeting, as the 2021/22 budget and programme are further refined.
In the meantime, take a look at these snapshots of our initial funding offerings for the upcoming financial year.
Ka whāia te wāhie mo takururia ka mahia te kai mō te tau
If you look for firewood in the winter, you will have plenty of food all year around