February 11, 2011

18th January 2011

Auckland Council

Private Bag 92 300

Auckland 1142



Attention: Mayor Len Brown, Councillor Alf Filipaina, Councillor John Walker

Dear Sirs,

 I believe there needs to a comprehensive investigation by the new Auckland Council, into the revitalisation of theatre and performing arts in Auckland.

 I have been involved in the live entertainment and theatre sector in many different areas, and have for many years been researching and investigating solutions to the limited infrastructure, management and funding aspects of the industry, particularly in Auckland.

There is now an opportunity where by the Super City can truly lead, through vision and by example. There are so many organisations vying for the same limited amount of funding for their projects, (and then requiring more) to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. This includes the management and guardians of venues such as the St James, Mercury, ATC, Q and The Edge who are also seeking funding from the same pot, to either build, restore or maintain these facilities. This “dependence” means that limited funds are distributed by virtue of the perceived worthiness of a project. Large amounts of these funds are often distributed to already established projects and businesses with proven worth. An opportunity exists to commercialise some of these, based on solid research and in turn create more opportunities for funding a greater number of innovative independent projects.

We need a collective vision and a holistic approach to the current funding dilemma. We need to investigate the potential commercial opportunities that lay within each of these projects and how best to utilise existing funding pipelines to ensure a sustainable future for theatre and performing arts. This would allow the arts to become the major economic driver it is in other major cities in the world. The new Auckland Council structure is perfect to capitalise on this opportunity because it’s all encompassing nature.

Our industry needs to be competitive, world class, captivating, unified, vibrant, and an economic driver. Currently it is facility driven, individualised, fragmented and doesn’t really register nationally or internationally. The longevity of the industry and the opportunities available to those that work within it will continue to be limited (and getting more so) unless we find genuine solutions that allow for a more commercially viable structure.

We seek to add significant value to Creative NZ funding and the many other funding avenues (many of which are unknown to the industry) through the establishment of a professional layer of business management so the best efforts of our practitioners can be put into their creative projects rather than the seeking of  financial backing. It means we as New Zealanders will see greater range of creativity, not bound by the rigorous requirements of one funding body. And it means the creative arts become a viable option in terms of investment and  long term employment.

 Theatre vs Sport

As an industry we need to be competitive with other industries, the sports industry in particular, as it takes the lion share of the entertainment dollar. The very high profile of sport in New Zealand means that the arts languish in terms of available resources.  As an ex- soccer (football) player myself, like hundreds of thousands of others, I know the limited lifespan we have playing the game we love. We can go on to watch and to train but in terms of active participation, there are serious limitations.

Organisations like John Walkers charitable trust ‘Field of Dreams’ encourage young people to get involved in sport in order to find those very few elite champions amongst us who are capable of winning gold. I applaud John for his work with this trust. However, we need to balance the ledger by developing and supporting an organisation that does the same thing for the Arts both in terms of benefiting our youth and in sustaining our creative industry.

There is significant research locally and internationally indicating the importance and benefits of creativity, both through active participation and through passive enjoyment. All of the psychological benefits of sport exist in creative pursuits also. New Zealand is a rampantly sports orientated country but  the reality is, not everyone is cut out for sport and in this country, those who are not very often suffer at the hands of those who are. In young people this can cause low self esteem and a sense of isolation – a sense that being creative is somehow not as worthy as being sporty.  We know we are failing some of our young people, particularly our young men. Sports can go some way to building high self esteem in at risk young people but so can the arts. Active creativity has a proven effect on learning. It helps to build and create self esteem. It allows for self expression. It encourages co-operation. Its importance is not based on individual size or strength and it does not have a culture of inclusive bravado. It is not plagued by injury and age restrictions.  Have we forgotten the real value of the creative arts on behalf of our young people, simply due to the acknowledgment its future is hampered by inadequate funding?


In order to achieve this we need to establish an Arts focussed organisation that shares a similar structure as John Walkers Field of Dreams, that ‘adds value to existing programmes’ and facilitates ‘the development of new ones’ through partnerships with council, NPO, NGO and business.

Incredible opportunities exist based on international models and typical value chains in everyday business. Here are some examples of opportunities to increase the strength of the industry:

1.       Theatre and facilities management and presentation of live entertainment should be completely separate businesses yet in New Zealand they are currently bundled into one.

2.       Creating the pathways to develop high quality NZ product for touring nationally and internationally

3.       Negotiating ‘reciprocal arrangements’ with International arts organisations and businesses to host and fund tours

4.       Attracting international investment

5.       Investing in international productions i.e. (on and off) Broadway and West End productions opening up opportunities for our professional actors.

6.       Hosting international premiers in collaboration with international producers

7.       Funding Solutions:          

          Public Private Social partnerships (PPSP) for theatre building and renovation

          Arts Infrastructure Fund

          Entertainment Fund for the co presentation and additional funding lines for existing theatre companies along with international investment opportunities.

          Responsible for raising funding for all projects i.e. Lion Foundation, ASB Trust etc

8.       Expansion and development of existing Community and Schools Outreach programmes.

In summary:

Revitalisation of the industry is long overdue. Through research and collaboration we can create a more vibrant, sustainable and enriching industry that continues to pride itself on its unique position in the international theatre scene.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this opportunity, we look forward to your reply.

Kind regards


Graeme Bennett

Executive Producer (Performing Arts)

M.          0272 268 378

E.            graemebennett@pai.org.nz

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