Arts funding freeze under National?

National has promised to maintain funding for the arts, culrure and heritage in its first term. (For the “full” 250-word policy, click here.)

Public arts funding is a good thing. The arts are integral to our culture and national identity, and we cannot rely on the market to provide symphony orchestras, local theatre and literature, experimental art, and so on.

So this is good news, given the possibility that National might be negotiating to form a government in a few months time.

Would funding increase during a National first term? Doesn’t look like it: “While in these tighter economic times it is not appropriate to significantly grow funding, it would also be counter-productive to reduce funding.”

Thank goodness then that we’ve had an enlightened Prime Minister for the last nine years who has personally championed the cause of NZ arts and culture, and substantially increased arts funding.

[Update: As Jim Anderton points out, a funding freeze for the arts would still amount to a cut in real terms, to the extent of inflation.]

Other aspects of the policy include:

  • not supporting arts resale royalty rights.
  • reveiwing the Historic Places Act.
  • “require Te Papa to improve the quality of service provided by the National Services Directorate.”
  • reforming the Film Commission.
  • “supporting the reform of the Authors’ Fund.”
  • requiring a greater emphasis on emerging artists.”

Some of this sounds promising. Russell Brown at public address calls it “essentially an endorsement of Labour’s reforms and initiatives in arts policy. It’s sensible and savvy.” But the detail is lacking in the policy statement. No costings and no clues about the rationale for important policy details. Again.


6 Responses to “Arts funding freeze under National?”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    JP – given the massive boost to Arts funding under Clark’s leadership, shouldn’t you be complimenting National on its commitment to maintain the current level of funding?

    I2: I said that Coleman acquitted himself well. Isn’t that enough?

  2. Stephen Says:

    “…we cannot rely on the market…”

    Could we perhaps provide better incentives for charitable giving instead of increased net funding? Go onto any website for these types of institutions and you will often see lists of donors and patrons who are relied upon to keep these guys afloat. I know ‘incentives’ tend to end up being some sort of tax break, but increasing the amount of rebate for charitable giving (above the current 33% of annual income), can have the effect of bringing in more private money, rather than that of the taxpayers…

    There is a grand tradition in the US of philanthropy in general (not just the arts) which we do not have anything like in NZ, so a change in attitude would be great too, which might (?) happen through a change in tax laws…

  3. AndrewE Says:

    I’d love to see tax rates pegged to inflation as well.

  4. Stephen Says:

    Dang righties comin’ in threadjackin’

  5. jafapete Says:

    Stephen, The ratio of righties on my blog seems to be 2:1, but that hasn’t affected the quality too much 😉

    Good points in your earlier comment. Should we use charitable giving? I’ve got nothing against changing the mix some, but I wouldn’t want to be entirely dependent on the rich who buy and donate to art to determine what gets produced. Think Diego Rivera and the Rockefeller Center.

    We’ve just lifted the limit on donations for tax deductability, and I’m not sure we need any more incentives for charitable giving. The problem is, as you acknowledge, culture, not incentives. And that will take a long time to change. Same goes for university funding. In some US universities the endowments per undergarduate student are measured in the millions. Things are changing in NZ, but it will take about 1124 years before we catch up.

  6. Stephen Says:

    I would be thinking more philanthropic giving to such-and-such a foundation who then dispenses cash to artists (perhaps similar to what we do now, except ‘govt’ replaces ‘philanthropists’?), rather than being subject to the whims of private individuals, as you alluded to. I just feel uneasy with the government spending money on stuff that can easily be classed as ‘discretionary’ spending like art, but am fairly comfortable with stuff like Te Papa – may be slightly contradictory there, not sure.

    Not sure what your ‘endowment’ comment means, but I suspect it’s something along the lines of Harvard having about $US30 billion in the bank, with about half that and falling rapidly for the rest of the world’s unis. Stanford is in the middle of a $US4.3 billion fundraising campaign – 80-odd percent of their students are on some sort of financial aid from the uni too! Expect to see an NZ uni join the fun later in the year…may help instigate a culture change, i hope.

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