Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. I rise to speak about the most important issues that I think affect New Zealanders, which are about arts and culture. It is with great pleasure that I contribute to this annual review of issues that cover film, literature, visual arts, dance, theatre, performance, music, and just an extraordinary variety of cultural art. Arts and culture, I think, could be regarded not so much as a sector as, rather, who we are as New Zealanders. From the perspective of looking at a year in review, we can both celebrate some extraordinary performances from the sector and also ask ourselves whether or not we have fully recognised the value of arts and culture to our society.
If we look at the range of activities covered, from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet through to thousands of community-based arts and cultural organisations, from New Zealand On Air to our fantastic film industry, I think what we see is an incredible richness—a richness of culture as well as arts, across Māori, Pasifika, Asian, and many other cultures in our country. We see huge levels of participation. Surveys done showed that 89 percent of New Zealanders had engaged in arts and culture over the past year. We see 630,000 people regularly undertaking dance, compared with only 150,000 participating in rugby. We see, perhaps, a difference in the way that these different pursuits are treated in our society, in terms of both funding and also recognition. We see from our arts a huge contribution to our creativity and our innovation, not only in New Zealand but internationally. We see their representation at the Edinburgh Art Festival, at the Festival of the Pacific Arts, with Māori and Pasifika artists—over 100 artists involved—and we see the emergence, now, of Asian theatre as well, which is very exciting.
All of this has an impact on tourism and our international reputation. It is not only specific artists like Lorde, Eleanor Catton, Taika Waititi, Flight of the Conchords, and Peter Jackson, but it is the many thousands of other artists who are now represented internationally and who make a huge contribution to our international reputation. It also contributes to our quality of life. Imagine Wellington ever winning a "quality of life" award if it was just Parliament here and not the tremendous richness of Wellington as a centre for the arts.Lorde, Eleanor Catton, Taika Waititi, Flight of the Conchords, and Peter Jackson, but it is the many thousands of other artists who are now represented internationally and who make a huge contribution to our international reputation. It also contributes to our quality of life. Imagine Wellington ever winning a "quality of life" award if it was just Parliament here and not the tremendous richness of Wellington as a centre for the arts.
We see, instead, a focus of much Government policy on commercial success and profitability, on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics rather than on the creative sectors. It is all about business innovation but not about the creativity that emanates from the arts sector. I think if you look at it from that context, we see that arts and culture in New Zealand have been starved of core funding. Funding has been flat and dropping in real terms over recent years. The arts community is forced to rely on volatile lottery funding, which is by no means ensured. We need to provide ways to support the thousands of struggling artists in our country who are struggling to make a living in low-wage jobs or on the benefit. We need to provide opportunities to support them in being able to express their art and in being able to contribute to our society. The Government needs to be more of a partner as well as a funder for the artists. If we call this a creative industry rather than arts and culture, no doubt it would attract far more funding, perhaps in the hundreds of millions rather than $43.7 million in the last financial year.
So my message is: let us celebrate our amazing arts, our artists, our actors, our writers, our performers, our musicians, and our cultural artists. Let us support them. Thank you.