Minister's address to the WeCreate Creative Economy Conversation

Earlier this year Forbes magazine headlined an article - ‘creativity is the skill of the future’.

I’m sure everyone in this room agrees. Valued throughout the ages, creativity is arguably most needed at our present point in history. In this technology-rich era, accessing knowledge is no longer the key priority – rather it is the imagination and the innovation we bring to that knowledge, and our ability to have a vision for the future which counts.

As a country we need creative minds and creative industries in order to flourish at both national and global levels – and that’s why, to borrow WeCreate’s hashtag - #nzcreativitymatters.

I consider it an absolute privilege to hold the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio – it means I get to work with a sector that makes a truly significant contribution to New Zealanders’ wellbeing, identity and economy. I also get to hear and learn from leaders such as yourselves – people who are both the heart and the engines of the industry.

My vision for Aotearoa’s cultural and creative sector is quite simple - that all New Zealanders can access a range of cultural experiences meaningful to them and that the sector is valued and supported to enable creative industries to grow and creative people to thrive.

All of you here today, and the industries and organisations you represent, play a vital role in making this happen.

There are three reasons why culture and creativity are central to Government’s reform agenda:

  • our culture is an inseparable and integral expression of our humanity, and creativity - our ability to think and operate outside of the proverbial box - is what separates us from algorithms and machines
  • our arts and culture are valuable and positive enhancers of our physical, mental and social well-being
  • our fast-growing and high exporting creative industries make a significant contribution to our economy - they drive employment and help us to share ‘Brand NZ’ - Aotearoa’s unique perspective with the world.

The impact and reach of our creative industries and people is immense.

When I think of the impact of creativity in New Zealand, what first comes to my mind are the numerous ways cultural experiences bring us together and enhance our daily lives – be it a school group touring Te Papa’s Te Marae for the first time, the 1,000 events of New Zealand Music Month or an art therapy group at a local rest home.

Added to this is the financial impact of the creative sector. In 2017, NZIER calculated that the sector cumulatively contributed a massive $17.5 billion to New Zealand’s GDP – including both the creative industries and creative input to general business activity.

It is important to consider what this means in people terms, and employment-wise this equates to over 130,000 jobs. That’s more than 6 percent of our workforce involved in creative activity – either as creatives in the industry, in roles supporting creative industries and people who bring their creativity to industries traditionally categorised as non-creative.

As impressive as these figures are, there will always be room for these industries to grow – for as Sir Richard (Taylor) very astutely said in his video message earlier today – “creativity is an infinite resource”.

‘Createch’ – the intersection and convergence of creativity and technology – is a rapidly developing field, and I understand the two Createch events hosted by WeCreate earlier this year were productive in identifying future opportunities in this space.

We know that our future economy will be built on creativity and technology.

It is imperative therefore that creativity is front of mind as we consider the future of work, and the workforce of the future.

In order to ensure the next generation is resilient to increased future automation we need to maximise the development of those ‘soft’ skills which are so often the defining features of creative roles – including cognitive ability, innovative problem-solving and interpersonal and systems skills.

Providing our children with a well-rounded education that fosters imaginative thinking will help prepare them for success and will future-proof our workforce.

There is clearly great rationale for focusing on culture and the creative industries – however I ultimately want us to move beyond the space of having to justify their economic value or intrinsic worth.

In order to reach a future environment where culture’s value is embedded in the ecosystem of daily life, we are taking a broad view and acting across all levels of Government.

I’d like to zoom out for a moment to look at some of our ‘big picture’ work which will impact the creative industry.

Across Government we are taking a holistic approach to how we can best improve New Zealanders’ overall living standards and wellbeing. By putting wellbeing at the core of our policies, we can transform how creativity is valued and incorporated.

We have a Bill in progress that will reinsert the four ‘well-beings’ into the Local Government Act – restoring the purpose of local government to be the promotion of ‘the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities’. This move has the potential to positively impact the daily lives of New Zealanders across the country – whether through free concerts and outdoor activities, or improved library services and new arts initiatives.

The Treasury is including cultural wellbeing as a core component of its Living Standards Framework. The Framework will guide all our decision making from the ‘Wellbeing Budget’ next year onwards - helping direct Government investment into areas that have the greatest impact across a range of wellbeing measures.

To help with this, resources are being developed by central government agencies:

  • Statistics New Zealand is developing a comprehensive set of indicators – Indicators Aotearoa – and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage is working with Statistics to include a specific set of cultural wellbeing indicators.
  • The Ministry is also developing a data picture of the cultural sector’s reach into our communities so that we know who is benefiting, who is missing out, and where we need to direct investment. The aim is to ensure all New Zealanders can access and benefit from cultural engagement – across regions, ethnicity and socio-economic groupings.

And just last week my colleague Hon Grant Robertson announced an important addition we are making to the Public Finance Act. As part of our planning to deliver the Wellbeing Budget in 2019, we are amending the Act to introduce requirements for:

  • the Government to set out how its wellbeing objectives, along with its fiscal objectives, will guide its Budget decisions
  • the Treasury to report on wellbeing indicators, alongside macroeconomic and fiscal indicators.

By using a wellbeing approach in our strategic decision-making, and ensuring we have the best possible information to support the process, we can also effectively address issues of particular relevance to the creative sector. This includes optimising access and participation for all New Zealanders and improving career, and industry, sustainability.

To kick things off, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage is working on several projects with the potential to enhance our creative sector.

Sustainable creative careers - Aotearoa is abundant with creative people and innovative thinkers and I want to ensure talented New Zealanders from all walks of life can have a sustainable creative career if they wish. I want young people and their parents to have confidence that a career in the cultural sector is a viable option and that it is absolutely valued as ‘real’ work.

In order for government to make a difference, we need to better understand the barriers to a successful career, and we have tasked Ministry officials with providing advice on what policies we need to put in place to reduce these barriers.

I have asked my Ministry to think broadly about what we can do to better support the development of artists and other workers to have sustainable careers in the cultural sector.

Contemporary music - In the contemporary music space, we invested in the NZ Music Commission in Budget 2018 in order to enable it to strengthen industry partnerships and maximise the training opportunities it offers to emerging artists – helping ensure the next generation can stay ahead of the game. 

I recently spoke to key music industry representatives at the Going Global Music Summit in Auckland, and I was struck by how important New Zealand music’s online presence is to our global impact – another example of the inextricable links between creativity and technology.

I have asked my Ministry to develop some advice on what we can do to lift the profile of New Zealand music internationally, online and on radio.

Screen sector - And we are looking at how we can best support the screen sector to grow into the future. The Ministry is working with MBIE and the sector on this, with a view to developing a new strategy for the sector.

This Government knows that we can be more effective when we work closely with the sector – and that a coordinated approach is often key to unlocking further growth.

WeCreate is a valuable partner for us and all creative industries as we work together to maximise the potential of the sector for the benefit of all New Zealand. 

I’ve been impressed by the considerable momentum WeCreate’s work has gathered to date and I’d like to commend Paula (Browning), Vicky (Blood) and their team for their efforts connecting with and advocating for the creative sector.

It is testament to WeCreate’s influence that so many key minds of the creative industry have gathered here with officials, to review and comment on WeCreate’s draft Action Plan.

Ultimately today is a conversation – an exchange of ideas and knowledge. And to borrow from Truman Capote – “a conversation is a dialogue not a monologue.”

It’s time to move from the latter to the former. I’ve shared my vision with you – I’m eager to hear your perspective now on how together we can best support our creative industries to fully achieve their potential.