May 29, 2015


Editor    posted 22 May 2015, 09:48 AM

19 May 2015

Dear colleagues,

In late April, the Arts Council met to consider its budget for the period covering 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018, in the light of declining Lotto profits.  I’m writing to let you know the outcome of these discussions.

The financial situation

The decline in Lotto profits, which account for around two-thirds of the Arts Council’s income through a grant from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board (NZLGB), has resulted in a $3 million drop in our expected revenue for the 2014/15 financial year.  In other words, by the end of the year we’re likely to have around 6 percent less than we thought we would at the start of the year.

This is a tough situation to be in.  Through prudently managing our finances, our investment in the arts will still reach a historically high level in 2015/16.  This is not sustainable though as we manage the effects of our declining revenue from the NZLGB.

As a result, the Arts Council has agreed to:

    use its financial reserves to minimise the impact of the revenue decline on the arts sector, especially for investment clients who have long planning cycles and long term commitments

    prioritise existing financial and contractual obligations across our funding programmers and initiatives, and ensure that artform and other policy initiatives are delivered (including the recent reviews of our support for literature, opera and multidisciplinary arts)

    not extend our pilot projects once they end (see below)

    keep the lid on our own expenses.

What does this mean for you?

In the short term you may not notice a difference.  Your current core funding agreements through either Toi Uru Kahikatea or Toi Tōtara Haemata won’t be affected.  Decisions on the Tōtara and Kahikatea round currently underway will be made in July 2015.

In the medium term, you should give thought to your assumptions about the level of ongoing revenue from Creative New Zealand.

Budget context

Between 2007/08 and 2013/14, our revenue from the NZLGB grew strongly, as did our investment in programmes and initiatives.  Over that same period, funding from Government was unchanged.

We have benefitted hugely from the Lotto tail-wind and this recent news about declining Lotto profits is disappointing.  We cannot know if we’re experiencing a short-term blip or the start of a trend.  Because Lotto profits can and do change, the Arts Council will revisit its budgetary forecasts as new information comes to hand.  We will let you know about any material changes.

Pilot projects

The Arts Council will not commit to extending any pilot projects beyond their scheduled end date, unless there is a material improvement in our revenue from the NZLGB.  These include the Creative Giving Pilot and the Sector Development Incentives Fund, which some investment clients are engaged in.

We’ll be letting our broader group of stakeholders know about our situation in the coming weeks, but wanted to bring this news to you, our Tōtara and Kahikatea clients, in a timely way.

If you have any questions, your Creative New Zealand adviser will be happy to help answer these.

Kind regards,


Editor    posted 22 May 2015, 09:55 AM

Here is a link to Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage 2015 

Analysis and comments welcome – including in relation to the shortfall from Lotto funding (see above).

Raewyn Whyte posted 27 May 2015, 01:14 PM / edited 28 May 2015, 08:13 AM

In Australia, the 22 May 2015 federal budget saw $105 million reduction in the Australia Council, resulting in the immediate cancellation of the upcoming June grant round, and the suspension of the six-year “funding for organisations” program which will have an immediate impact on independent artists and small-to-medium organisations, with a quick flowthrough to the arts ecosystem.


Editor    posted 28 May 2015, 03:16 PM


By Ben Eltham 

ArtsHub [Australia] 

The [Australian] Minister for the Arts has admitted to Senate Estimates that he did not consult anyone in the arts sector before setting up the National Programme for Excellence in the Arts. 

In testimony before a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday, Arts Minister George Brandis said that he didn’t consult with the Australia Council or any arts organisations before ripping $104 million from the agency in the May budget.

Brandis confirmed that the first person to hear about the massive funding cuts was Australia Council chair, Rupert Myer, just hours before the budget was handed down. [More]

John Smythe      posted 28 May 2015, 03:28 PM

According to Eltham’s earlier article, “$104.8 million over four years has been ripped out of the Australia Council’s budget to create a new slush fund, apparently to be decided at the discretion of the Arts Minister of the day.”

And according to the Arts Minister (in the more recent article), “88 per cent of arts expenditure will continue to be directed through the Australia Council.”

So funding hasn’t been cut so much as re-allocated to allow for more government control of arts content. That is the spectre we should fear!

Editor    posted 29 May 2015, 03:41 PM

Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director of the Queensland Theatre Company, has written an open letter to the Australian Arts Minister:

Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time – Winston Churchill

We have all had a whinge about the Australia Council at some stage. I admit that. We don’t always like the outcome of grant rounds, we think some organisations get too much whilst others get too little, we complain about uncertainty, the lack of career development if you rely on public grants, we accuse the Australia Council of nepotism or too much funding going to Sydney and Melbourne based artists etc etc. We have all done it.

But I have always seen our complaints and analysis being feedback to help steer the Australia Council in the ‘right’ direction.

I have been reading some of the analysis since the federal budget announcement that saw you take back a whack of money from the Australia Council to administer within the Ministry. I accept the argument that some of this were monies the previous government added to the Australia Council baseline and you will be taking on some of the functions that went with those funds BUT you signed off on a huge array of changes within the Australia Council that have been undertaken in the past few years and this decision could jeopardise the ability to maintain an already strained cultural ecology.

I am writing to help highlight some principles that have been built over years of trial and error, and like Churchill’s sense of democracy, have developed to become the best balancing act we have to deliver cultural funds.

I would like to ask you as the Arts Minister – when was the first Indigenous play written and by whom? When was it first performed and why did it take the good part of 25 years before it got a professional production? What was the writer trying to achieve? How did this play set the scene for those plays that came after it in theme and structure? When were the major turning points in Indigenous Theatre in the past 50 years? Who were the writers and makers who were influenced by these works and who went on to make international careers? How many 100’s of 1000’s of people around the globe have benefitted from Indigenous theatre?

Admittedly some of these things you could easily google but for the bulk of the answers to these detailed questions you have to consult experts in the field. Which is totally fine….you aren’t expected to know everything about everything. Your field of expertise is Politics. A field I know very little about in detail. I know enough to have an opinion and know what I like and don’t like. If I had my way I would get rid of a few things that annoy me but I really don’t have the time to get into the area with confidence so I leave it to the experts and participate as a critical and informed citizen. I have faith that the system is working well enough and I can see how my opinion fits into the matrix of expert opinions, research, Industry consultation, audience survey, public good and the sense of it being better than any alternative.

I am naturally a conservative in this area. I don’t believe that the history tells us we as a country require a radical change in values.

I have grown up with a few basic principles that I would like to outline. Please indulge me.

1. The arts, artists, audiences and the cultural life of our country are best served through a funding regime that is arms length from the cut and thrust of political life. Innovation and cultural growth is a long term undertaking and often doesn’t follow political election cycles. That is not to say that artists are not equally accountable to a public like politicians it’s just that your cycles and motivations for decision making are affected by things that should not drive cultural change and innovation.

2. Expert opinion and informed discussion leads to an evidence based decision making. This is self evident isn’t it? Experts in a given field know the nuance and detail of that area and in a field like the arts…well we all know that subjectivity and taste can rule. We have all heard the saying “I don’t know about the Arts but I know what I like”. This is so true. But unfortunately you often don’t know what you don’t like. In a world where we are increasingly tribal very few people are forced to move outside their comfort zone. Art is by it’s very nature an act of imagination where an individual or group help transport you to see the world differently. Hence by definition Art can make you feel euphoric and uncomfortable in equal measure, give you a vocabulary for change and articulate difference through beauty, harmony, the familiar and ugliness, dissonance and the revolutionary. These are two sides of the same coin. And like a coin, a piece of art is an act of chance and risk. Experts help you mitigate risk.

3. Public funds are spent for public benefit. Yes another self-evident point but worth re-stating. The citizens and corporations of a country pay taxes to benefit the country and those living and operating in that country. Accountability is the key democratic platform of any government and when it comes to the Arts the whole ecology is best seen in context. Commercial works, heritage arts, individual artists, small companies, large companies, training bodies, the new and the shocking. The arguments of cultural and social benefit of the arts may have slipped off the public discourse but it is a well worn path with a heap of writings I won’t insult your intelligence by regurgitating here. Needless to say there are conversations to be had around social benefit when it comes to looking at funding the arts. This may be a simple as articulating the role of beauty in our lives, or the importance of our heritage forms to tell us where we come from or the power to tell the stories of the dispossessed…in some ways it’s the discussion and articulation that is important rather than fixating on a moral sense of superiority of one form over the other.

4. Funding is best when it serves innovation and change rather than the status quo. Societies are ever evolving, they must be. In fact I think Australia is one of the fastest evolving nations in the world. When we think about the growth of cultural expression from over 500 different language groups to the waves of arrivals before the British colonised this continent and then the exponential growth of migration from across the globe – our people have found ways to build innovative ways of seeing our nation and expressing complex ideas through our arts. Unlike other business models most arts and cultural industries in this country are based on exploiting the known rather than investing in innovation. Those motivated by profit and other market forces do not seem to be attracted to long term investment in the innovative and socially progressive cultural forms, though we could argue they directly benefit from the development of artists, ways of thinking, audiences, cultural practices etc. There are excellent arguments for publicly owned galleries and museums, Arts centres, opera, ballet, theatre companies, orchestras etc but there are equally vital arguments for R&D, form explorations, artist development. As a 20 year old I had a violent vision of how art should be and it was considered marginal and too edgy. Now I am running the 3rd largest theatre company in the country and am watching audiences grow and today’s 20 year old artists deride me as too conservative and stopping innovation from happening. I do love the way the world turns and how each generation eventually takes their ideas, explorations and experiences through to their future selves eagerly pursued by the next generation of 20 year olds and more radical thinkers. We are part of an ecology of practice and we are connected. Funding functions best when we support the broad church of the arts. It is true that we often ask those with the least resources to be the most innovative and progressive. In the thinking around funding we should not lose these practices because if they are diminished than we are all diminished in our ability to reflect our history and present and run the risk of walking backwards into the future with both hands tied.

I think me and my work could personally benefit by talking with you and convincing you of the merit of my individual project and accessing this new fund BUT I think that is the very reason why it should be questioned and interrogated. Self interest and selective access can create short sightedness, nepotism and a kind of artistic narrowing that, if left unchecked, could make our artistic and cultural expression inbred, insular and ultimately moribund.

I ask you to please rethink this decision and reconsider the work that all artists and the Australia Council do in this nation.


Love Wesley.

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