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New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review

New Zealand’s professional orchestras have, for many years, made a valuable contribution to our cultural life.  They are the cornerstone of a wider network of  junior orchestras, community orchestras, ensembles and performing groups, tertiary music schools, music teachers and composers.

Our five main orchestras have been supported by successive governments and local authorities as a public good. However, with a static funding environment for the foreseeable future, changes in public demand and a population that is increasingly concentrated in the north of the country, it’s time for a stock-take.

The five orchestras reviewed were the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Orchestra Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Sinfonia.  

The review, conducted by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH), looked at the orchestral sector as a whole.  It examined the current roles, activities and business models of each orchestra and how they work individually and collectively to support artistic excellence and to provide access to live performances. It also looked at their relationships with the wider orchestral and performing arts sectors.

During 2011/12, the Ministry developed terms of reference and established a reference group. We worked with consultant Avi Shoshani (Secretary General of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), the orchestras and other stakeholders, and drafted a discussion paper outlining some of the challenges facing the sector and four possible scenarios for change.

The Ministry completed the Review of the Professional Orchestra Sector during 2012/13. The Review discussion document received 2,000 submissions. These submissions, together with economic analysis and input from the Review reference group and Creative New Zealand, helped inform our recommendations. In February 2013 the Minister endorsed the Final Report, including its 19 recommendations, and released it publicly. 

The Review concluded that the current model of one national, touring orchestra and four city-based orchestras remains the best way of ensuring New Zealanders have access to high quality orchestral music. It found there was considerable scope for the orchestras to work more collaboratively in areas such as programming, professional development and career development to ensure the best use of public money invested in them. The review also defines roles for a national, a metropolitan and city-based orchestras.

Work on implementing the Review’s findings and recommendations will be completed by January 2015. This includes the Ministry and Creative New Zealand implementing a joint policy and funding framework for orchestras. 

Orchestral sector review report released [28 February 2013]

New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review final report [28 February 2013]

Orchestra sector review discussion document released [23 July 2012]

New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review discussion paper [July 2012]


Updated on 20th January 2016