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Snapshot of the Cultural Sector = Te Wāhanga tikanga ināianei

Snapshot of the Cultural Sector  = Te Wāhanga tikanga ināianei


New Zealand’s cultural sector encompasses a broad range of industries and activities: film, broadcasting and digital technologies, design, literature, visual arts, music, theatre, dance, built heritage, libraries and archives, museums and galleries and, more broadly, sport and recreation.

The cultural sector is integral to New Zealand’s quality of life and contributes to our economic success. The government’s investment in the sector ensures that all New Zealanders are able to access and benefit from high-quality cultural experiences. In 2009/10 the Ministry spent approximately $350 million via Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage and Vote Sport and Recreation. (Further information can be found in the Financial Statements in this report).

New Zealanders value and participate in culture

New Zealanders place great value on culture and participation incultural activities. The 2009 Cultural Indicators report shows that almost 75 percent of New Zealanders see culture and cultural activities as very, extremely or critically important to national identity. In this respect culture ranks above both sport and the economy.

Economy and employment

The cultural sector is an engine of growth for the New Zealand economy. In recent years it has matched or outpaced other sectors of the economy in terms of income, employment and value added.

In the year to June 2007, New Zealand households spent more on cultural items than they did on clothing and footwear, health care or passenger transport.1

In 2007, cultural activity contributed $3.15 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, 2.1 percent of the total figure for industry.2

The cultural sector now supports a growing workforce that makes up almost 7 percent of all the people in paid employment in New Zealand. It continues to drive new opportunities in terms of innovation, creativity, and collaboration with sectors such
as tourism and education.

Sector infrastructure

The sector is home to thousands of individuals and organisations whose work fits broadly into the categories of ‘heritage’, ‘arts’, and ‘film and broadcasting’.


‘Heritage’ includes archaeological and traditional sites, historic buildings, heritage objects and Māori heritage and taonga. The heritage sector is engaged in researching, identifying, conserving, interpreting and promoting New Zealand’s heritage for future generations.

There are between 500 and 600 museums and galleries in New Zealand, including the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. Collectively these museums contain many of our heritage objects and taonga Māori.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust is the lead national agency for identifying and protecting places of historic heritage value. Many private trusts and organisations are also involved in protecting and promoting heritage.


‘Arts’ spans the breadth of visual, literary and performing arts, as well as many recent forms that use new technologies or cross traditional artform boundaries.

The infrastructure includes major national organisations such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Te Matatini and the Royal New Zealand Ballet; regional organisations such as theatres and orchestras; smaller community-based groups; and individual artists.

Creative New Zealand, the national agency for arts development, is responsible for supporting, maintaining and developing community and professional arts in New Zealand.

Film and broadcasting

New Zealand’s screen industry has become increasingly important as a source of employment and overseas revenue. It recorded gross revenue of $2,806 million in 2009, a 10 percent increase on the previous year.3 The number of businesses in the industry grew by 20 percent to 2,673 over the same period.

The New Zealand Film Commission oversees the development, financing, production, marketing and distribution of New Zealand films, both domestically and internationally. It also administers funding incentives that are designed to boost film production in New Zealand.

NZ On Air is the government’s primary agency for funding local content on television, radio and the internet. Broadcasting standards are maintained by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority.


1 Statistics New Zealand and Ministry for Culture and Heritage (2010). Household Spending on Culture 2010

2 Cultural Indicators for New Zealand 2009, p. 77

3 Statistics New Zealand. Screen Industry Survey 2008/09, p. 5

Updated on 23rd July 2015