Govt questions future of NZ Venture Investment Fund, film grants, Bridges says

Bridges said that the government is currently reviewing the screen production grant.

The government is looking at a range of options for the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, including discontinuing funding, Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges told a parliamentary committee.

"At a high level, I do see a role for the government in a country like New Zealand" in venture capital funding, Bridges told Parliament's commerce select committee. However, "having put capital in now over 15 or 16 years I don't think we necessarily want to do more of that," he said.

Established in 2002, NZVIF was set up to invest with venture capital funds and alongside angel investors to support New Zealand technology companies with start-up and growth capital. It has $245 million of funds under management invested through two vehicles: the $195 million venture capital fund of funds and the $50 million seed co-investment fund, according to its website.

When asked if the government could stop funding Bridges said: "It's something that's under consideration. There's a range of scenarios from the one you refer to through some sort of VIF two if you like."

He said there were a range of views on the fund's future and "we have a somewhat open stance, albeit we have got to be very respectful of taxpayer money in this area and it's under consideration."

Bridges also said that the government is currently reviewing the screen production grant, which gives international film and television producers a 20 percent rebate if they come to New Zealand to film. Projects are also eligible for an additional 5 per cent uplift if they can demonstrate significant economic benefits to New Zealand.

The grants received a $303.9 million allocation over five years in this year's budget to ensure there was funding for the pipeline of movies likely to draw on the scheme, including James Cameron's Avatar movies.

Bridges said while the grant is an area of "some controversy," producers simply wouldn't be here in the volume they are, or perhaps at all, if the government didn't support the sector. He said New Zealand's scheme is in the middle of the pack internationally and while the country originally had to play off its scenery, the locally available film technology is becoming increasingly attractive to producers.

However, "we have to look closely at the grant. We are evaluating it at the moment and that review will be completed later this year," he said.

(BusinessDesk)

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