Combining culture and heritage a visionary move

  • Marie Hasler
Cultural Affairs

Uniting culture and heritage will help us to celebrate, foster and protect our cultural and historical legacy, Hon Marie Hasler said today when announcing the details of the new Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

"The new Ministry reflects Government's positive vision for the future and my own view that culture and heritage underpins all we are, as New Zealanders, both socially and economically," Ms Hasler told guests at the second Millennium Concert in the Banquet Hall, Parliament.

"We can ensure a more coordinated approach to cultural and heritage objectives and see greater promotion and protection of our distinctive national identity.

"These changes represent a significant upgrading of the priority given to culture and heritage by this Government.

"They will enable me, as Minister for Culture and Heritage, to take a 'big picture' approach to policy development; and to create a strong platform for Government's further thinking about how it can most effectively protect our cultural and heritage history and support these activities now and in the future.

"This new role means Government will, for the first time, be able to take a strategic overview of the culture and heritage sector."

Outlining the changes, Ms Hasler said Government has for some time been reassessing its involvement in the cultural sector. This involvement has developed in a rather haphazard way over many decades and been scattered among a variety of portfolios, departments and agencies - some of which have other, non-cultural priorities.

From 1 September this year the Minister for Culture and Heritage will have responsibility for historic heritage policy and cultural broadcasting policy.

The inclusion of both these two policy components within the Culture and Heritage portfolio will increase its strategic range and enable policy development to take place within a relevant context.

The Minister for Culture and Heritage will also become responsible for New Zealand On Air, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the National Library.

The Heritage Group of Internal Affairs - comprising the National Archives, the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Historical Publications and Heritage Property will also be the Minister's responsibility.

In support of these changes a new Ministry for Culture and Heritage will be created.

This new Ministry will continue its current functions involving, providing policy advice (primarily on arts and museological issues); monitoring the performance of cultural crown entities, including Te Papa, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Film Commission and Creative New Zealand and the three private cultural organisations funded by the crown - the New Zealand Film Archive, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the Aotearoa Traditional Maori Performing Arts Society.

Ms Hasler said the changes relate to portfolio and departmental responsibility; there is no change to the functions of Crown entities or other organisations outside central government.

"I would like to reassure those people who are currently working in these areas that for them it will be business as usual," she said.

"I am especially mindful of the need to preserve the constitutional nature of our heritage and ensure our valuable collections remain free from administrative and political interference.

"I also see having the cultural aspects of broadcasting and New Zealand On Air united in this portfolio as one of considerable value for the sector. There will be no change to the operation of New Zealand On Air and, as already indicated by Government, its level of funding is guaranteed for the next three years.

"I believe historic heritage activities and cultural broadcasting are key parts of the cultural heritage sector. I am looking forward to working with people in all these areas in the very near future."