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Political Parties Respond To Arts and Culture Policy Queries

13 Jul 2023

We promised we'd seek answers - here's where the leading contenders to decide Aotearoa's next government stand, 93 days out from the election and the reaction from creative community leaders.

In last week's Lowdown, the lack of art and creativity policy from Aotearoa's leading political parties was called out by a group of high-ranking and influential creatives.

With the countdown to October's election ramping up - The Big Idea approached the major parties and asked them: 

When do you plan to reveal any policy regarding the Arts, Culture, Heritage and Creativity sectors for the upcoming election (for 2024 and beyond) and what does your party stand for in these areas?

These are their responses - in alphabetical order.

When queried on policy, the Party provided this detail:

"ACT values the contribution that the arts bring to a rich and diverse New Zealand society.

"ACT would like to see arts funding invest in more diverse range of art for all New Zealanders, including recognising a variety of Asian cultures and especially those living in disadvantaged communities or isolated locations.  Value will be placed on projects which allow a wide range of communities to participate in the arts. 

"After criteria of meeting needs of disadvantaged or isolated communities, arts funding applications should be tied to how much private philanthropy, corporate sponsorship or expected ticket sales they have, to ensure that supported arts are going to appeal to the New Zealand public as much as possible. This will have the effect of supporting increased cultural philanthropy from the private sector to bolster arts communities in New Zealand.

"Creative NZ will not fund projects which promote or glorify violence or racism.

"Government funds which currently fund large public sector payrolls for culture agencies and screen production grants for multinational corporations should instead be redirected to funding for local artists. 

"We are open to reforming the way grants are run for creatives to avoid the current bureaucracy, drawing on international examples such as recent changes the Arts Council England has made to redirect funding to local projects. However, these kinds of operational changes would need to be worked through as part of the government.

"ACT wants an education system that supports diverse needs of children. Under ACT’s vision for education, schools would be able to foster arts education for their students, and families can choose to enrol their children in schools with strong arts opportunities if this is something they value. This could include academies focussed on arts education.

"ACT supports students studying the arts at a tertiary level should they wish, and gives no direction to universities on funding or not funding certain subjects. Under our Student Education Account policy, students can use the funds towards course fees for arts study or their living costs while they do so."


Rather than a defined policy, the Greens launched their manifesto over the weekend, with the following section on Culture and Creativity.

"The Green Party will ensure better working conditions, more certainty, and greater opportunities for Aotearoa’s artists and creatives.

"Our art, artists and creatives tell the stories of our communities and help make sense of the world around us.

"Previous governments have starved the sector of necessary investment. Right now, many of our creatives are working without the certainty of a stable income. Many don’t even know if there will be a suitable venue to showcase what they have created.

"Arts, culture, and creativity is vital for healthy, vibrant people and communities. Like other community infrastructure, the arts, culture, and creative sector needs proper support.

"It is time to ensure artists and creatives are valued, respected, and recognised for their work. We will fund artists properly and support the local venues that are critical for artists to build an audience.

"Together, we can support the people behind the books, music, movies, shows, and images we love."

The Greens manifesto states their plan is to:

  • Ensure all publicly-funded projects pay at least the living wage to artists, and expand paid artist residencies including Whiria te Tangata.
  • Support and invest in repatriating taonga currently overseas, back to iwi, hapū, and whānau Māori.
  • Provide stable funding for cultural and creative organisations and events both nationally and regionally, including long-term funding commitments for significant creative initiatives such as Te Matatini and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
  • Ensure that there are a range of creative education and training opportunities to support and expand the local creative sector.
  • Fund alcohol-free venues, and replace arts funding from gambling revenue with stable, increased investment indexed to inflation.
  • Support increased funding for quality, noncommercial public media that nurtures and promotes our talent and creativity as a nation, reflecting the unique social and cultural diversity of Aotearoa.
  • Increase resourcing for student, community Māori, and Pasifika media and radio.



Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni replied;

“The Labour Party will be announcing its Arts policies in due course. We will build on the tremendous work and investment that has supported the sector, particularly through the pandemic, and as it continues to recover.”


Spokesperson for Arts, Culture and Heritage Simon O'Connor replied;

"National policy will want to emphasise that the creative sector is an essential part of New Zealand; it is not simply a 'nice to have'.  

"Certainly, Creative NZ needs to be closely looked at as, to us [National], it feels that many in the sector have lost confidence in their funding decisions and are calling for greater transparency in decision-making.  There is more to add, but until the Party fully reviews and agrees its policy, I am not able to share further details."

Creative sector reaction

We sought the reaction from the collective of arts figureheads that are rallying the creative community to stand up and be counted - Judy Darragh, Sir Roger Hall, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Eve de Castro-Robinson, John Daly-Peoples, Professor Peter O’Connor and Roger Horrocks

Spokesperson Horrocks told The Big Idea "Labour and National promise an arts policy for the election and we should keep them to that promise. The frustrating thing about arts policies in our country is that politicians talk up the importance of art but are seldom able to convince us that they have any practical new ideas for helping our artists and developing our artistic environment. 

"Two things which overshadow our situation this year are (1) the latest report on the income of creative professionals in our country, sponsored by Creative New Zealand and NZ On Air, which shows how far artists’ incomes fall below the national average, and (2) the impressive new five-year plan for the arts issued by the Australian Government, a plan which creates an embarrassing contrast to what most of our politicians have come up with so far.       

"The underlying problem for the arts in Aotearoa remains the fact that they are simply not valued as strongly as they are valued in many other parts of the world.  Any artist who has lived overseas is likely to have experienced that. As Emil Scheffmann points out in the latest Metro, “The broad category Sports and Recreation gets hundreds of millions from the state versus the tens of millions reserved for Creative NZ, and also receives lotteries funding on top of that.”  

"Yet the arts were hugely important to our society during the pandemic lockdown, and – as other countries recognise – they are a vital, long-term source of jobs and tourist attractions. From an artist’s point of view, the arts are essential for having a smart, innovative, and caring society and to help us all to lead lives that are more rich and varied. 

"The battle continues to make our politicians aware of those benefits and ambitious to do something about them." 

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.