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Cultural sector overviews

New Zealand’s cultural sector encompasses a broad range of cultural and creative industries and activities: film, music, broadcasting, design and digital technologies, our built heritage, libraries, literature, museums and galleries, performing and visual arts.

Economy and Employment

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

We, along with Creative New Zealand share a mutual interest in achieving a better understanding of the contribution the arts make to New Zealand’s economy, and also in measuring the contribution more accurately. As a first step, our two organisations commissioned Infometrics to gather information on the economic characteristics of the sector. While the findings are robust we recognise a significant portion of the arts economy isn’t captured by the data sets and the resulting calculations are conservative. The Working Paper: An economic profile of the arts in New Zealand from 2015 provides a useful start towards gaining a better understanding in this area and the data sets available will be useful in informing government policy and funding decisions.

In July 2017, ground-breaking research into design’s economic contribution to New Zealand’s economy showed that during the last year alone design contributed $10.1 billion to New Zealand’s GDP (approximately 4.2%). A study highlighting the benefits and contribution of design to the economy of New Zealand was undertaken by PwC and commissioned by a national design consortium (DesignCo). Professor Claire Robinson, convenor of DesignCo, said at the launch of the research: “There is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector. International evidence confirms that design leads to more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services".

For more details, visit Creative New Zealand's arts advocacy page which lists relevant research about the value of the arts.

New Zealand’s active industries delivered $6.2 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to new research from Skills Active Aotearoa. Skills Active published in January 2020 the latest in its regular series of reports – the Workforce Scan, covering the following industries: sport, community recreation and aquatics; outdoor recreation; performing arts; and exercise. The Scan found that these industries employed a total of 85,812 people in 2018.  Outdoor recreation, grew by 5.1% to a total of 12,164 people. Over the course of the year, this industry contributed $845 million to the economy. Sport, community recreation and aquatics was up 3.4% to 37,233 people, and contributed $2.6 billion in 2018 GDP. Performing arts was up 2.9% to 29,825 people, and delivered $2.3 billion to the economy.

A March 2018 report The Value of Sport  (PDF 1.9 MB) released by Sport NZ, explored the value of sport to New Zealanders, their communities and our country.

Architecture of the Sector

The Ministry is the government’s leading advisor on media, cultural and heritage matters. We fund, monitor and support a diverse portfolio of 15 agencies, including Crown entities, non-government organisations (NGOs), and a statutory body.

Government makes a significant contribution to the broad cultural  sector each year. Support for the cultural sector is also provided through other public sources, most notably education and local government. Further funding is provided by the Lottery Grants Board each year to four key cultural sector agencies in their capacity as Statutory Bodies. In the 2020/21 financial year we will administer approximately $577.177 million for Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage and $240.374 million for Vote Sport and Recreation.

The Ministry has a leadership role and heads an informal sector cluster of funded agencies, based on voluntary collaboration. It has been working with cultural sector agencies to develop more of a whole-of-sector approach. In addition to engaging on specific policy, research, partnerships and development areas, and aligning some funding strategies, agencies have more recently been collaborating on a range of initiatives to improve value for money and develop new sources of funding outside government.

The sector is home to tens of thousands of organisations which fit broadly into categories of heritage, culture and media. 

For a general overview of the cultural sector, read our Cultural policy in New Zealand document.


Updated on 18th September 2020