2 Feb 2022

Covid-19: Government provides more support for arts and culture sector

1:07 pm on 2 February 2022

The government is boosting support for the arts sector following the shift to the red traffic light setting and continuing pressure on the sector.

Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni speaks about the Reactivating Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland package.

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme will be boosted by $70.7 million from its current $22.5m allocation.

It has been extended to cover events that were planned before the move to red, and scheduled to take place before 31 January 2023.

This also includes extension of criteria to cover cancellations due to a lead performer getting Covid-19 or needing to isolate.

The Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund is being boosted by $35m, and organisations can now receive up to to $300,000, an increase from the $100,000 limit.

The relief fund will now include a one-off $5000 grant to self-employed or sole trader practitioners who can show loss of income.

The Screen Production Recovery Fund gets another $15m, with $7.9m allocated to New Zealand Film Commission and $7.1m to New Zealand on Air.

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni said there was "huge financial and emotional strain" on the sector.

"The red traffic light setting, whilst needed to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders, has had an impact on the livelihoods of those who make a living out of arts and culture," she said.

The support scheme covered the costs of the artists and performers, and technicians such as sound or lighting crew, Sepuloni told Morning Report.

Cover was extended to January next year or until the Covid Protection Framework was no longer in use, and would be assessed in July, she said.

The original Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund put in place last year had been criticised by the sector as being difficult to access, she said.

The new one off-grant was equivalent to about eight weeks of what would be the wage subsidy, Sepuloni said. "[It] recognises that artists are in a very difficult and challenging situation at the moment because of the restrictions on them that come with red in the [Covid] Protection Framework.

"In the next few weeks we will work with the arts sector to make it more accessible that it has been."

Auckland's regional arts trust Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi chief executive Alison Taylor said the funding extension was unexpected and welcome.

"There was a bit of an impending sense that we were heading to the edge of a precipice around April.

"So much work goes into planning and developing over long periods of time ultimately for an event or an exhibition ... and if that gets cancelled that's a major blow and can mean loss of income for many artists."

"The grants to individuals is a recognition that many many people in the sector are self-employed or have small businesses, and I think that got missed previously.

The emergency funding was a short-term measure and underlying issues remained about sustainable funding and sustainable careers for creatives, she said.

"It's a short-term measure and this is likely to continue for much longer.

"We definitely need to see what the more medium term solution is."

She would like to see the government consider calls for a universal basic income for artists.