Submission to Auckland Council on its Proposed Cuts to Arts Funding – March 2023

Tēnā koe Mayor Brown,


I am writing to ask that Auckland Council:

  • Reconsider its plans to cut funding to Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (as those plans apply to the reduction or cessation of arts and culture programmes, educational initiatives and events)
  • Reconsider its plans to reduce local board funded activities (as they apply to the presentation of arts, culture and educational initiatives)
  • Reconsider the necessity of reducing regional contestable grants

Instead, I would prefer that Auckland Council:

  • Identify and reduce bureaucratic waste and inefficiency across all areas of its operational activities
  • Identify and save on excessive consultancy fees and contracts
  • Offer ratepayers accountability and solutions for waste and inefficiency, rather than sacrificing the vast economic potential of our recovering Art, Culture and Creative sector
  • Address the ways in which Auckland Live is failing to realise the economic potential of its venues
  • Sell ONE of Auckland’s 13 publicly owned golf-courses.

(With a combined value of $2.9 billion – yet with usage restricted to just 100,000 people per annum (incidentally, the same number of people who patronized Auckland Arts Festival over an 18 day period this month – and a third of the number that engages with the Auckland Philharmonia every year) – selling just one golf course could yield $223 million which in turn would cover the $124 million of operating costs Council is planning to cut, ameliorate the need for an additional $75 million of debt, stop the sale of shares in Auckland’s airport, prevent a large rates increase during a cost of living crisis, AND free up land for much needed housing. [1])

Cutting funding to Art, Culture and Creativity is easy compared to addressing waste and inefficiency in Council’s operations, processes and infrastructure. But eroding Art, Culture and Creativity in our city will come at a great cost to Aucklanders, while improving, streamlining and optimizing Council’s service and operations will offer the city and its ratepayers enormous benefits.

Please do not make Art, Culture and Creativity the scapegoat for Council’s inefficiencies and overspending.

Please, instead, invest in realising the true potential of Art, Culture and Creativity as an economic generator for our city –  and a source of knowledge, inspiration, perspective, and community for our ratepayers – at a time when the creative economy is growing, and creative skills are increasingly important to success and sustainability in the economy of the future.



The following information is taken directly from a report by Deloitte, commissioned by Netflix and published in 2021.

“The creative economy is large and growing faster than the wider economy, with total creative economy employment up 4 million in 2018, from 2011.

Over the longer term, the creative economy is likely to be a key driver of economic growth as governments around the world look to rebuild their economies in the wake of the downturn associated with Covid-19. It is reasonable to expect that the sector will return to its long-term trend of growing faster than the wider economy

Extrapolating from earlier trends suggests that the creative economy could grow 40% by 2030, adding more than 8 million additional jobs, in the 9 economies studied.

How are the linkages within the creative economy contributing to growth?

  • Creative supply chains – Strength in software, music or craft (making sets, costumes, etc.) sectors can make a country or region more attractive as a destination for, say, investment in new film and TV, and investment in new films and TV series can provide demand that increases growth in the supplying sectors (including those like music that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic).
  • Shared IP – Where different parts of the creative economy exploit common designs, stories, characters and worlds. This effect can be seen in popular franchises from Pokémon to Harry Potter with major revenues across multiple creative industries. It can also be seen in less well-known books, songs and other creative works used as IP in movies, television shows, video games and other settings which introduce that content to new audiences.
  • Creative technology – There is increasing overlap between the digital and creative industries and this is only likely to increase with the growing role of AI, new approaches to VFX (including the use of gaming platforms in making new film and TV) and collaboration tools in production.

All of this will have implications for public policy as the creative economy recovers from Covid-19, in areas including:

  • Regional development – With creative industry clusters likely to play a more important role in a greater range of regions over time.
  • Skills policy – With cultivating creativity an increasingly important priority for the education system and the wide range of technical skills needed to support the creative economy in increasing demand.
  • Global competitiveness – With growth in the size of the global creative economy increasing the rewards for those countries and regions that are competitive in the production of creative goods and services.” [2]


The Global Liveability Index (calculated by the Economist Intelligence Unit) presents an annual, ranked list of the world’s most liveable cities. Its five categories are:

  • Stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture and Environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure

The Covid Pandemic had a profound impact on the liveability of cities around the world. That impact was measured by the EIU across a range of economic markers including:

  • Restrictions on theatre
  • Restrictions on classic and modern music concerts
  • Restrictions on restaurants, bars, coffee shops and nightclubs

At the height of the pandemic in 2021, Auckland was ranked as the world’s No.1 most liveable city.

“Auckland rose to the top of the ranking owing to its successful approach in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed its society to remain open and the city to score strongly on a number of metrics including education, culture and environment.”[3]  

Last year, however, Auckland dropped back to 34th because it “no longer had an advantage over well-vaccinated European cities”. [4] 

In 2022, the world’s most liveable city was Vienna.

Its advantage?


With a population comparable to Auckland’s (c. 2 million people), Vienna makes cultural participation the top policy driver for the city.

The city’s initiatives integrate universal accessibility to Art and Culture as a key focus of its future development over the next three decades. These long term, multi-step plans indicate the City’s continued commitment to enhancing the quality of life and cultural engagement of its multinational population.” [5]

Culture is a key driver of liveability in a city


In January this year the Australian Government unveiled ‘Revive’ – a landmark cultural policy which includes almost $200 million in additional funding for the Arts. [6]

Their investment will significantly increase the global competitiveness of Australian cities compared to New Zealand cities.

  • Auckland is facing a skills deficit and a talent shortage, and therefore needs to attract workers and become more liveable
  • Auckland is facing a brain drain and therefore needing to retain the skilled workers we currently have by becoming more liveable
  • Auckland needs to attract domestic, trans-Tasman, and international tourism – a  key driver of which is Art and Culture
  • Our nearest neighbour – Australia – is taking proactive, highly competitive steps to increase its liveability and desirability by investing strongly in Art and Culture

A 2017 report commissioned by the Australian Council for the Arts indicated that 43 per cent of that year’s 8 million international tourists engaged with the arts while in the country; more than those who visited wineries or casinos or attended sporting events. The international arts-attending tourists tended to stay longer and spend more in total, leading to a spend of $17 billion in 2017, making up 60 per cent of the $28.4 billion spent in Australia by all international tourists.

Covid has made a brutal impact on the Australian and New Zealand economies – particularly in the creative sector. However it is worth noting that “prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cultural and creative industries were among the fastest growing in the world, representing 30 million jobs worldwide. The creative economy employs more people aged 15 to 29 than any other sector.” [7]

“The growing value of cultural tourism is acknowledged globally. In a recent survey of Member States of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), 90% of respondents accorded a specific place for cultural tourism in their tourism policy, 69% indicated that cultural tourism is ‘very important to tourism policy’, and 84% indicated cultural tourism had a specific place in their tourism marketing and promotional plans. The report concluded that cultural tourism is set to remain one of the key tourism markets in the future.” [8]

Culture and Creativity are now beginning to recover in the wake of the pandemic and these crucial generators for the future economy need investment and opportunity – not devaluation and erosion – if they are to deliver on their economic potential.

Art and Culture drive tourism and attract higher spending visitors

Eroding Art and Culture will make Auckland less liveable, less desirable and less competitive with Australia (and other countries) at a time when we need to retain residents, attract skilled workers, and regenerate tourism


This photo was taken at 8.10pm on Friday the 24th of March 2023, during the height of the Auckland Arts Festival

On this night, Auckland Festival had done an exceptional job of filling the city with Arts patrons. The Civic Carpark was completely full, with cars queuing and being turned away. The Sydney Theatre production of Dorian Gray was playing at the Kiri te Kanawa Theatre. Blanc de Blanc was playing back to back shows in the Spiegeltent to capacity audiences. Rupi Kaur was playing to a sold out Town Hall.

But where are the buzzing crowds enjoying the atmosphere of Auckland’s dedicated Arts Precinct during our first fully realised festival since the Covid pandemic?

Where are the creatively conceived and engaging spaces, the public art installations? Where is the cohesion and activation? Why isn’t there a food truck hub to counteract the dearth of nearby restaurants? Why are the bars in the Aotea Centre, the Town Hall and the Civic Theatre CLOSED?

Where is Auckland Council’s vision for its Arts Precinct?

The lack of vision means that the economic conversion of approximately 100,000 Arts Festival patrons over an 18 day period have been lost to a Council that has failed to recognise the value that these patrons represent to their own, and to the surrounding business, ecosystem.

On one hand, Council decries the lack of value that Art, Culture and Creativity bring to the city by threatening their sustainability with funding cuts. On the other, Council shuts down its Arts Precinct at 8.00pm on a Friday night during a Festival and fails to activate assets that could enhance the Festival experience, draw people into the precinct, and further capitalise upon the economic opportunities that the Festival presents.

What would Sydney have done?


Improving the standard of living and the well-being of people in an economy includes ensuring a vibrant and accessible culture.

  • Worldwide, creativity and innovation are recognised as critical to the recovery of cities post the global pandemic.
  • Art and Culture provide identity and a point of difference – something that Auckland City needs in order to be globally distinctive and economically competitive with other cities.
  • Art and Culture encourage creativity, collaboration and innovation. These skills are crucial to the future economy and they cannot be expected of a future workforce if they are not taught, nurtured or made accessible as that workforce develops.
  • Art and culture powerfully augment the economic potential of other businesses and industries – hospitality, design, advertising, broadcasting, education, fashion, retail, tourism, transport, etc.
  • Defunding Art and Culture will not only inhibit participation and access to the arts in the present, it will serve to destabilize our current creative sector and arrest the development of our future culture – a setback which is far harder (and more expensive) to recover from than it is to prevent – and which will cost us not only money, but also momentum, opportunity and potential.
  • Defunding Art and Culture reduces access to people and communities who most need it. “Cultural activities foster social inclusion and dialogue among diverse communities, while tangible and intangible heritage are integral parts of a city’s identity, creating a sense of belonging and cohesion.” [9]
  • By making these cuts, Important artistic, educational, regional and community initiatives will be interrupted or abandoned, driving the arts into an inaccessible and elite sphere rather than empowering them to serve and embrace the full spectrum of the population.

When Art and Culture are less accessible, fewer people participate or engage in the arts – when fewer people participate or engage in the arts, community is diminished, practitioner skills are eroded, audience literacy declines and artistic standards drop – when skills, literacy and standards drop, excellence is compromised, practitioners leave the sector and culture is devalued – as culture is devalued, its important social and economic benefits are lost – and once lost, those benefits are far harder and more costly to regain and rebuild

Art, Culture and Creativity offer enormous value to Auckland City. The fact that Council does not prioritise this potential, or have a vision to realise its value, does not mean that it isn’t there.

I urge you to reconsider your approach to Art, Culture and Creativity in Auckland. Don’t deplete it. Empower it to make Auckland a great city.

Ngā mihi nui,

Victoria Kelly

[1] Dear Auckland, Thanks for funding our $2.9 Billion Hobby. Regards, Golfers

[2] The Future of the Creative Economy / Deloitte (including a link to the full report)

[3] Auckland Tops the Global Liveability Survey 2021

[4] EIU Global Liveability Index 2022 Summary

[5] World Cities Culture Forum

[6] Revive – A Place for Every Story, A Story for Every Place

[7] UNESCO Cities and Culture

[8] Australia Council – Arts and Tourism

[9] UNESCO Cities and Culture

  1. By god, this is brilliant – so well thought through, researched and presented! Must confess, most of it would never have occurred to me. Victoria Kelly for Mayor! You’d be immeasurably better than the present incumbent but then you wouldn’t get time to write all your wonderful music, of which your Requiem, may I say, was a wonderful, moving example (after hearing a snippet of the preview on radio, I was expecting something like Tavener, but you gave us several levels more in sophistication and emotional depth). May it have many performances worldwide! William Green

  2. Brilliant!!! For all the voices who may never be heard… of poets & dreamers, creators & all who bring their vulnerable arts into the realm of reality to awaken a sleepy world… Your submission is wonderful Victoria!!! So very poignant, exquisitely articulated and so well researched. I pray the ears it falls on are not deaf & the eyes of all who read it are opened… Wake up Auckland & fight for the colours of art that paint your city beautiful!!!

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