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Keynote speech to CNZ New Zealand Conference (21 Jun 2010)

Speech by Minister Finlayson.

Welcome to this conference. To those of you from overseas, it is good to have you with us. The Arts Council has organised a very good programme.

Today's sessions have been about ‘vision' and how it can be translated into progress.  I am going to talk briefly today about my ambition for the arts sector and outline some of government's key actions to help arts organisations, particularly as we move out of the recession.

What are the key principles defining this government's approach to culture and the arts?

First - ensuring organisations are properly structured and equipped for the 21st century.

In 2008 I inherited a portfolio with many areas in need of urgent support and change.  Despite tough economic times, I have been able to take a systematic approach across the sector, tackling those areas of critical need and putting in place the foundations for smarter and more effective agencies and organisations.

Second - establishing a greater culture of giving and generosity.

I have talked before about ‘growing the arts cake', stimulating demand by boosting cultural philanthropy, and providing better incentives for people to give to the arts.  There are several areas of action I will highlight that will help manage this shift to a society with a deeper commitment to giving and philanthropy.

Third - to see culture and the arts firmly positioned in the mainstream of government decision making.

I have talked a lot about changing the way New Zealanders think about the arts.  This includes recognising the sector as core to business, employment and growth, and integral to our wellbeing and quality of life. 

Equipping the Sector for the 21st Century

How do we best equip the arts sector for the coming years? To begin with, the full and busy work programme we have for the sector shows how much there has been, and still remains to do - initially to help organisations through the worst of the recession, and to make sure they can survive in the years ahead.

I have been able to address urgent deferred maintenance on behalf of the Historic Places Trust, a legacy of under-funding going back more than a decade.

I have boosted support for the Film Archive, where chronic issues around storage have threatened our cultural heritage on film. Our Film Archive is a national and international treasure.

There has been world-wide interest in the Film Archive's project with the US National Film Preservation Foundation to repatriate nitrate films. Along with extensive coverage in New Zealand media, there have been articles in papers such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Guardian, and interviews with ABC Radio Australia, BBC Radio 4 and National Public Radio USA.

The government has also initiated a series of reviews to fine tune governance and address other issues in our key cultural agencies - Creative New Zealand, The Film Commission, and the Historic Places Trust. 

The purpose of these has been to encourage effective delivery of services, and to create strong, durable organisations which can be more responsive in the future.

While Budget 2010 was not a time to seek new money from government, the fact that we were able to secure extra funds for sector agencies was a vote of confidence in the arts sector. 


Government support can only ever be part of an overall strategy for the arts.  A more creative and coordinated approach to developing all-important philanthropic support.

To this end, and to address the second principle in this speech, I have started a major project to look at how we can be better at helping you tap into other sources of funding, not as a replacement to public funding, but as an additional pillar of support. 

The emphasis of this work is on growing private giving, rather than introducing new and complex rules for the tax system. 

This was outlined last year by the Prime Minister when he spoke about encouraging a ‘culture of giving'.  It is not a short-term project for dealing with the downturn.  It is a long-term strategy to open up new streams of funding and to stimulate the culture of philanthropy in New Zealand.  This can only be good news for the arts. 


I hope you took the opportunity to hear Margaret Belich speak earlier about the work being done by the Ministerial Taskforce on Cultural Philanthropy.

The taskforce is looking at a wide range of areas, from best practice overseas, to how we can publicise the incentives being introduced here. 

That includes helping to promote fundraising opportunities such as payroll giving, a new scheme we introduced this year that enables company employees to make regular donations out of their pay to the charitable organisation of their choice. 

New ideas being explored include a Gift aid scheme, in which people can give donations - as well as the tax benefits they accrue - directly to a charitable organisation. 

Other possibilities being investigated include a cultural gifting scheme - where donors are offered tax benefits for gifting a culturally significant item to an art gallery, museum or library.  Another area of interest is looking at ways to encourage expatriates and other people outside of New Zealand to support organisations in this country.


Developing more robust research for the sector is another area which is gaining momentum.

New work from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has suggested there is significant untapped potential for individual giving to the arts in New Zealand.

It found that just 3% of gifts, grants and sponsorships received by cultural organisations came from individuals.  Corporates contributed marginally more, at 6%.

Surprisingly, of those organisations that didn't receive any support from individuals, 78% hadn't sought it, while 87% of those without corporate support had not sought it either.

The research also found that only half of the organisations that responded had "donee status" with IRD. Without this status, individuals or companies that make donations can't claim rebates on them, and they can't participate in the new payroll giving scheme.

What can we do with this information?

For a start, it is clear an information deficit exists both for donors and cultural organisations, and this might be an area where we have to devote more of our energies in the future.  There is plenty of scope for agencies such as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Creative New Zealand to work more proactively to address this deficit. 

Culture is Core

Returning now to the last principle, which is placing culture at the core of everything we do.

The idea that ‘culture is core' - to economic growth and our quality of life, is now well entrenched. 

Putting this idea into practice, however, remains an ongoing challenge. Our task is to keep presenting the evidence clearly and effectively.  In a tough spending environment, this has been of particular importance. 

It also means being more innovative in the way you work, and looking for new opportunities to position the sector in our national and civic life. 

Measuring Success

The sector will benefit from being better able to demonstrate its ability to contribute to economic outcomes and other government priorities.

Tomorrow's sessions will look at ways in which successes and audience needs can be measured.  Providing sound evidence to show that an organisation is achieving its aims and objectives is critical, particularly with expectations around constrained government expenditure. 

Using data about its work has helped the screen sector to bolster its case for continued government investment, such as through the Large Budget Screen Production Grant and the Screen Production Incentive Fund.

My colleague Gerry Brownlee, Christchurch MP and Economic Development Minister has a strong interest in supporting the screen industry, partly because of the clear contribution it makes to the New Zealand economy.

As he said last year "can anyone tell me what's wrong when we put up 15% and they give us 85%?"

Tomorrow you'll be hearing from several experts about measuring outcomes for arts organisations.  Although much of this work is relatively new, it will become more important as a means to better explain to audiences, sponsors, funders - and each other - what, why and how you are achieving your goals.


Opportunities and Innovation

I have been impressed with how agencies have worked in new ways to cope with challenges imposed by financial constraints.

This should come as no surprise.  As Robert Lynch, president of the advocacy group Americans for the Arts said recently, "Most organizations have been hurt, but arts organizations are different.  They aren't driven by profit.  They're driven by mission.  And they'll do anything to survive."

I've seen examples of this across the country, where organisations have responded to a decline in audience numbers, grants, and donations with flexible and pragmatic solutions. 

I recently attended a concert in Wellington where the internet auction concept was employed to tap into the philanthropy pool.  Five composers agreed to write a new solo work, for a reduced fee, for the highest bidder.  In the end, the project raised more than $20,000.

Here in Christchurch, the Symphony Orchestra has moved to combine its administration and management functions with Southern Opera.  This sensible approach to arts management seeks to provide an integrated and efficient solution to issues of financial stability, artistic standards and audience growth. 

I hope we will see more practical initiatives such as these in the sector.


I enjoy being Minister for the Arts. My other roles as Attorney General and Minister for Treaty Settlements mean I have a demanding workload, but this portfolio is not some kind of light relief. There is much to do.

I hope that, over the next few years, we can begin to look at augmenting and building on the best of what we already have.  I have no shortage of ideas for the arts in New Zealand and look forward to putting these into action.

I also hope the sector judges its government representatives on their knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to speak boldly about why arts and culture are fundamental to our society - and, when necessary, to thump the table to be heard. All the best for your conference.

Updated on 10th January 2017