Earlier this week, The Big Idea published an open letter from a group of experienced and respected creatives and academics who are determined to ensure Arts and Culture doesn't get left off the table in this year's election build up.
Judy Darragh, Sir Roger Hall, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Eve de Castro-Robinson, John Daly-Peoples, Professor Peter O'Connor and Roger Horrocks all put their names to it and stated "During the last election, our political parties paid almost no attention to arts policy. It is a topic that tends to arouse worthy sentiments but few realistic plans. For this election, we should demand that parties offer practical proposals."
So The Big Idea reached out to all the political parties that currently make up parliament to offer them a chance to reply about their Arts and Culture priorities for election year.
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage - and Deputy Prime Minister - Carmel Sepuloni's (above) reply from Labour's stance on the topic was a full one.
"I’m really proud of how our Government’s investment in the arts, culture and heritage sector has helped to support thousands of people who deliver arts and cultural experiences for a living.
"Alongside investing nearly half a billion dollars in COVID-19 support - the largest investment in the sector in New Zealand’s history - we’ve also delivered on a key manifesto commitment to begin work on and deliver an Artists Resale Royalty Scheme. This is an important piece of work which will ensure the creators of visual arts are recognised and rewarded when their work is resold on the secondary art market.
Over the course of the last term and a half, much of which has been dampened by a pandemic, we’ve had to respond swiftly to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods.
We put in place a suite of supports, including; the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme which has supported more than 400 arts and culture events, the Cultural Sector Innovation Fund which has supported 185 innovative projects to help drive recovery and future resilience and the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund which helped to protect over 200 jobs across 65 organisations.
Nearly 1,500 self-employed people who faced pay uncertainty received financial support through the Grant for Self-Employed Individual, four significant touring international exhibitions were made possible through the Government indemnity scheme, and 1,700 shows and over 250 artists were supported through the New Zealand Music Commission’s Aotearoa Touring Programme, which we extended in August 2022. Towards the end of last year, I also had the pleasure of opening the Auckland Film Studio which we invested $30 million in, creating more than 300 jobs.
It’s important that regardless of who is in Government, we also value, acknowledge, invest in and celebrate toi Māori and Pacific arts – they’re a central and intrinsic part of our culture and heritage. That’s why as a Government, we committed to making Matariki a public holiday. This was a significant and proud milestone for all of Aotearoa New Zealand last year, with Matariki becoming our first distinctly New Zealand public holiday.
"We’ve continued to safe-guard at-risk mātauranga Māori through investing $24 million over three years into the Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku programme and we’ve supported Pasifika Festivals to take place – including Polyfest which many of us were able to experience last week, and Pasifika Festival this weekend which I look forward to heading along to.
"Going into the election – our commitment to the arts, culture and heritage sector remains the same as it has been over the course of the last term and a half – strong, steadfast and deliberate as we continue to drive and secure the response and recovery of the sector.
"I stand by our Government’s commitment, the investments we’ve made and our deliberate approach to providing stability and assurance. We will continue to build the resilience and capability of the sector, and ensure all New Zealanders can access and enjoy Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique and iconic arts, culture and heritage experiences.
"Some say that the best stories are those yet to be written. As I’ve said before however, there is more we can do to support the sector to thrive and flourish, and I look forward to building on our achievements in the year ahead and beyond."
National’s spokesperson for Arts, Culture and Heritage Simon O’Connor (above) replied, "National is looking forward to releasing its arts policy, demonstrating its interest and commitment to the creative community.
"At this time, I am engaging with those in the sector and appreciate the dialogue with several involved in the open letter as well as others.
"A key focus of our policy will be acknowledging the important place of the arts and creative community, as well as the need to have short, mid, and long term strategic plans for the sector.
"There is also a need - strongly expressed by those in the sector - to ensure confidence in the decision making by the likes of Creative New Zealand is restored.
"When our full policy is released, I look forward to further engaging with those in the sector to discuss and develop further."
ACT’s Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson Damien Smith (above) added that his party “agrees that the arts are a positive and enriching part of our way of life. New Zealand has a proud history of exceptionally talented artists and there should be a pathway for more to succeed.
“We believe the role of the private sector and sponsorship needs to increase to ensure this. This means returning to traditional grant funding with no politicisation.”
UPDATED: A celebrated artist in her own right, Dr. Elizabeth Kerekere (above), Greens spokesperson for arts, culture and heritage responded:
"Arts and arts practitioners should be valued and supported, and our heritage protected and preserved. Our strong creative sectors have intrinsic value to society and significant economic potential.
"Access to and participation in the arts should be affordable and widespread. Arts practitioners should be supported to realise their creative and economic potential.
"The Crown also has a responsibility to foster and encourage the taonga of toi Māori."
At the time of publishing, Te Pāti Māori had not responded to a request for comment. Just as we did for the Greens, we will update if a reply is received.
The Big Idea will continue to stay in touch with political parties to keep the issue of the arts and their policies on it in the headlines leading up until the election.