Last week saw the culmination of one of Christopher Finlayson's visions. Since the arts, culture and heritage minister was himself at Creative New Zealand 15 years ago, he has seen the need to change the cumbersome structure of the organisation. Last week Parliament passed the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa Bill, which will streamline the governance of the organisation and improve its effectiveness.
For the past 20 years Creative New Zealand has consisted of four governing boards; the Arts Council, essentially a policy making body, and then three funding bodies – the Arts Board, The Te Wake Toi (Maori arts) and the Pacific Arts Committee, with a total of 28 members, Each of the bodies met for several days each year making huge administrative demands of a small staff.
The new structure has just one body with 13 members.
“By getting rid of red tape, this bill frees up the Arts Council and its staff to put their full focus and resources into the arts and artists,”Mr Finlayson said.
The single Arts Council will be responsible for policy, strategy and funding allocation, replacing the previous division of responsibilities between the council and the boards.
The new council will have a minimum of four members with knowledge of Maori Arts, tea o Maori (a Maori world view) and tikanga Maori (Maori protocol and culture). These members will be appointed by the arts minister in consultation with the minister of Maori affairs.
At least two members will be appointed with knowledge of the arts, and the traditions or cultures of the Pacific Island peoples of New Zealand, in consultation with the minister of Pacific Island Affairs.
“This bill ensures that issues involving Maori and Pacific arts are represented at the top table for decision-making, which under the current cumbersome structure is not necessarily the case,” Mr Finlayson said.
Many in the arts community will be wondering what will happen to the new saving which will result from the changes. Not only will there be savings from administration, honorariums and travel costs reduced administration related to meetings, there will also need to be fewer staff overall. This could result in a small windfall for arts organisations.