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Creative NZ Chief Announces Departure

31 Oct 2023

Exit stage right for Wainwright - a big change at the top of one of Aotearoa's leading funding agencies.

Major change is coming at Creative New Zealand (CNZ).

After more than three decades’ service with the organisation, Stephen Wainwright is to step down from his role as Chief Executive in mid-2024.

In a statement, Wainwright says “It’s been an immense privilege to lead CNZ, supporting artists, arts organisations and the wider arts community to create and deliver beautiful, inspiring and thought-provoking work. 

“After a long time at the helm, it’s now the right moment for me to move on. So many things have changed since I first joined CNZ, but the commitment of the arts community to its craft is a constant. 

“While the challenges ahead are significant, I’m proud of the team – the work we’ve done and the work we’ll continue to do. Ngā mihi nunui ki a tātou katoa.” 

After first joining CNZ in 1990, Wainwright has served as Chief Executive since August 2006. His 17-year tenure at the helm of the leading arts organisation has made many memorable moments - including playing a pivotal role as CNZ was the first liferaft to support the creative sector when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 and coming out on the front foot to support Tusiata Avia when The Savage Coloniser stage show(which CNZ helped fund) was used as a political football by ACT.

There have been controversies as well in recent times - like the backlash over the $5 million partnership with We Are Indigo to create digital art agency Toi Hourua, funding structures and choices being frequently questioned and a formal written censure after CNZ staff felt abandoned by senior management at Auckland Airport during the Anniversary weekend flooding. 

The announcement comes just days after Wainwright declared the bleak financial reality facing CNZ with the level of revenue from the Lottery Grant Board set to fall.

Chair of the Arts Council - who oversee CNZ - Caren Rangi comments “It’s difficult to put into words the enormous contribution that Stephen’s made to CNZ, to the arts in Aotearoa and to the arts community internationally. His leadership and service, over many years and much of it behind the scenes, has steered CNZ through the hard times and through the good times too. 

“I’m grateful too that Stephen has been discussing this decision with me openly for nearly two years. He has given us a significant notice period, to help ensure a smooth transition to a new Chief Executive.”

CNZ states the recruitment process for the Chief Executive role will commence shortly, supported by an external recruitment firm. As the governing board of CNZ, the Arts Council will appoint the new Chief Executive. This is expected to be in the second quarter of 2024.