15 Sep 2017

Arts, Culture and Heritage: What’s in it for you?

From Upbeat, 4:00 pm on 15 September 2017

Funding and support for Artists and the Arts are the main election issues facing the major political parties in respect to Arts, Culture and Heritage.

In the build up to Election 2017 Upbeat on RNZ Concert has been putting the hard questions to the Arts spokespeople of the major parties.

National’s Maggie Barry, Labour’s Grant Robertson, The Greens’ Barry Coates, The Opportunities Party’s Mika Haka, and Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox told Eva Radich about their main focuses for Arts, Culture and Heritage this election.

According to Barry Coates, Arts and Culture contribute $17.5 billion to our GDP, with 131,000 people working in the creative sector, which represents 6.6 percent of the national workforce.

Coates says transparency and sustainability of funding is a major issue, and claims that under National between 2017 and 2021 the Arts budget is being cut by 25 percent and that the accumulated deficit since National came into office is $400 million for the Arts alone. But National’s spokesperson for the Arts, and former Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry refutes the statistics and says there’s an additional $40 million going into arts over the next two years.

Barry Coates has questioned the use of Lottery funding for the Arts, especially the use of  funds from “pokie” machines. Maggie Barry supports the Lottery funding model and says last year creative organisations received an extra $45 million over and above government funding through its use. She recognises some organisations don’t like to be funded by “pokie” money, as they see it as fueling addiction. The Greens, and Labour both believe this is not a sustainable funding model for the arts.

Regional New Zealand also needs more support, according to the Greens and Labour. The National government have introduced some regional funding for the Arts, but the left believe more needs to be done.

Education and Arts are also a key focus. Labour and the Greens plan to scrap National Standards in primary schools. They would put more emphasis on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. TOP’s Mika Haka agrees. Artists in Schools programmes, cut by National, would be reinstated by Labour, with Grant Robertson saying when the programme was cut, it only cost $7-9 million to run. National says it has funded a Writers in Schools programme through the Book Council.

Labour is also offering the first year of tertiary education free. That can be in Arts courses approved by NZQA. But those hoping to complete post-graduate study, including in arts areas, would have to pay fees but would be eligible for a student allowance . But National does not agree with free tertiary education. Maggie Barry says throwing “free money” at undergraduate study is not the way to go, calling it a “misguided lolly scramble”.

The Maori Party policy is to make Te Reo Maori compulsory in schools and included in teacher training. Co-leader Marama Fox says studying the language is linked to New Zealand’s history and culture. She estimates this will be implemented in three to five years. The party also wants to establish centres of excellence to encourage cultural identity, including traditional Maori arts practices.

TOP is proposing to introduce a universal basic income, which would see an extra $200 per week given to everyone aged between 18 and 23. Mika Haka says there are many young creatives who can’t afford to pay rent, or transport, or enroll in classes. He says having financial certainty would flow into other aspects of young people’s lives.

Better representation of New Zealand’s Arts, Culture and Heritage by New Zealand Diplomatic missions needs to occur according to the Greens and The Maori Party. A special unit would be set up by the Greens to oversee this.

National, Labour and the Greens are supportive of apprenticeships, with National saying they have a target of 50,000 in workplace training by 2020 across the workforce.

Other proposed plans include The Greens establishing an Authors’ Fund and Literary Commission; the Maori Party want to see the return of important artifacts to New Zealand including Toi Moko; and National and the Greens want to invest in saving heritage buildings, with National focused on important regional heritage buildings.