Auckland Council’s proposed $35.6 million cut in funding for the arts in Tāmaki Makaurau would damage the city’s brand and the reputation of its vibrant arts and cultural organisations, says Arts Access Aotearoa in its submission to the Auckland Council.
Richard Benge, Executive Director of Arts Access Aotearoa, acknowledges the huge challenges facing Auckland Council to rebuild damaged communities and infrastructure following the February floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
“However, it’s essential to maintain the brand and unique character that Auckland Council recognises are found in the important economic, social and wellbeing benefits of the arts,” Richard Benge says.
Arts Access Aotearoa is “deeply concerned” about the impact these cuts would have on the mental health and wellbeing of Aucklanders, along with the city’s network of 27 creative spaces, its Deaf and disabled artists, and the arts and cultural organisations providing accessible events.
The Council’s Toi Whītiki Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan 2015–2025 provides a shared vision for growing arts and culture in Auckland. It acknowledges and celebrates Māori culture as “Auckland's point of difference in the world”, and mana whenua as Treaty partners in a multicultural Auckland.
“All Aucklanders can access and participate in the arts”
Toi Whītiki was developed by Council in partnership with representatives from the creative sector. The submission states that the proposed cuts represent a reversal of the commitment made by Auckland Council in its strategic goals: in particular, “All Aucklanders can access and participate in the arts”.
The submission continues: “The proposed cuts disrespect all the mahi that tangata whenua and the wider arts sector made to create it. They would severely damage the ability of the creative spaces sector to strengthen communities in a time of increased need. They would also remove reassurance for marginalised Aucklanders for whom the arts bring wellbeing, community and identity in these uncertain times.”
Downgrading the city’s “unique cultural identity”
If the proposed cuts proceeded, Auckland Council would be downgrading the city’s “unique cultural identity” instead of growing it. Instead of “a robust and flourishing creative economy”, Auckland Council would have caused its decline.
Richard Benge acknowledges the experienced leadership of Auckland individuals and organisations working in the arts and cultural sector, exemplified by its festivals, performances and venues, and across its many community arts and creative spaces.
“The cuts would tarnish the very attributes the Council has promoted and make Auckland unique: the economy, Māori identity, cultural diversity, nature and urbanness,” he says.
The submission states that Auckland’s arts and cultural organisations – still struggling to recover from the impacts of the pandemic – are now staring down the barrel of cuts that would come on top of an already stretched funding base.
It continues: “$35.6 million in cuts to arts funding would cost the people and communities of Auckland far more than that amount. Arts Access Aotearoa’s network of creative spaces has been built up over many years. These spaces are the result of decades of community development work by thousands of dedicated people, aimed at supporting some of our most vulnerable people. Axing their operational spending could mean a permanent end for many of the organisations that currently help to make Auckland a vibrant, diverse community.
“Like many others, we believe the Auckland Council can borrow more. The Council is proposing to borrow $75 million. Council says that it cannot borrow more than $140m without breaching internal policy. But the Council can adjust its own policies: combining borrowing with a strong revenue plan will ensure that Auckland’s strong credit rating is not impacted.
“Along with the Council’s proposed general rates increase, increased borrowing and unfreezing targeted rates could make up the $295m revenue shortfall the Council says it has.”
Building strong, connected communities
Richard Benge says that building strong, connected communities is more important than ever in the wake of the floods and the cyclone.
“Given the multiple social and economic benefits of the arts in Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s essential that our artists, filmmakers and writers receive adequate and sustained funding to make the art that gives us hope and identity, offers insights and understanding, and connects us as a community,” he says.
Sustainable investment from the Auckland Council in the arts, tourism, public transport and other social services will help carry the city through these difficult times and protect its brand, the submission concludes.
“In the long run, maintaining investment will provide the economic and social benefits that all Aucklanders deserve and for the city to thrive.”
Arts Access Aotearoa submission to Auckland Council (Word 93.6Kb)
Arts Access Aotearoa submission to Auckland Council (Pdf 151.6Kb)