Ignoring arts and culture | The Jackal

14 Nov 2011

Ignoring arts and culture

Earlier this month I wrote about National's failure to incentivize arts and culture because of a lack of funding increases to account for inflation. Effectively this results in a cut in funding for an industry that is highly important for New Zealand.

National's budgets are obviously prepared by somebody with costing disease, an aversion to properly fund things that don't show a direct financial benefit for bean counters. The social benefits to having a healthy arts and culture industry, doesn't seem to result in any proper plan.

National aren't the only party putting arts and culture on the to do list though. An overall lack of any substantial policy creation has been highlighted in a current issue of the Listener.

Hamish Keith writes:

National has done better. It simply points out that arts and culture contribute over $8 billion to the economy, employ 7% of the work force and are major marketing points for tourism. Sadly, having made those very pragmatic points, it fails to offer any real plan for growth – just more of the same with a little bit more leg room on the observation decks. 
On the debit side, it crows about “retaining” the Hobbit films in New Zealand – not mentioning its changes to labour laws in the film industry that slowly, but surely, are making work there seem about as attractive as crewing a Ukrainian-flagged trawler or manning a sewing machine in an Asian sports shoe factory. No mention of physical infrastructure, such as sound stages in Auckland, and none from Labour or Green, either. Yet film’s $2.8 billion churn, being project based, needs infrastructural development more than some dodgy tinkering with labour laws. 
At least Labour and Green have something positive to say about cultural employment – with Labour offering to develop creative apprenticeships and the Greens sustaining the Pathways to Creative Employment initiative, which effectively finds and develops real jobs for creative workers, and which the outgoing government muttered darkly about dumping. 
All three policies are mostly boast or waffle. Two glaring gaps demonstrate how out of touch they are – not a single mention of cultural recovery for Christchurch and not a word about the devolution of cultural decision making. The absence of any Christchurch plan shows just how remote from reality cultural policy is. The burgeoning centralised control of culture is the single greatest weakness across the whole sector. Back to the cultural drawing board, policy wonks, and do try to get out more.

What a damning article. Surely the wonks can do better.