Auckland Council Emergency Budget

Auckland Council’s consultation on their Emergency Budget 2020/21 is now open for submissions. The submission closing date is 19 June 2020. The Emergency budget calls for cuts across Tāmaki Makaurau. Particularly affected are our city’s arts, cultural, and creative sectors, which are already facing unprecedented challenges due to the impact of COVID-19.

As reported in this recent article on The Big Idea, the proposed cuts include the scaling back or cancellation of events such as Matariki Festival and Music in the Parks, fewer arts, culture and events grants, a 70 percent reduction in public arts funding, and less funding to arts and culture facilities including many community-led organisations that receive funding from Auckland Council, including Te Uru, Te Tuhi, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Pah Homestead, McCahon House, The Upstairs Gallery, Te Pou, DocEdge, Massive Theatre Company, SIlo Theatre, NZTrio, NZ Comedy Trust, Show Me Shorts, Tempo Dance, Manukau Symphony Orchestra and The Big Idea.

Arts and culture will play a significant role in our recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. Central government’s Budget 2020 will deliver a substantial level of investment designed to regenerate the arts, cultural and heritage sector. This investment is crucial, but will not be enough to sustain Auckland’s creative communities and industries through to recovery. This rescue package could be compromised if local government does not come to the party.

In finding savings, the emergency budget needs to be careful not to do irreparable damage to our already fragile arts ecology and our communities. Cuts to some activities will have more impact than other activities so we need you to let Auckland Council know your concerns before June 19.

What you can do:  

Visit www.akhaveyoursay.nz/emergency-budget.nz and follow the blue “Have your say now” link to the feedback page. 

You’ll be asked for your opinion on the key topics first. Then, question four ‘Other feedback - what is important to you?’ is your opportunity to provide feedback on things you support and aspects you want reconsidered or enhanced, including arts, events and community outcomes. All questions are optional, and you can provide feedback on behalf of an organisation or as an individual.  

For more information click here | To make a submission, click here

You can also get in touch with your local board directly, which is another important way for local voices and considerations to be heard. A lot of Auckland Council arts and culture funding is distributed through local boards, and they are also expected to find savings, so please let them know your thoughts. For a list of local board contact details, click this link

Here are some key points you could include in your submission:

  • COVID-19 has had a significant economic and social impact on communities and businesses. As we transition into this period of recovery and rebuild, investment in our people and our city is vital to New Zealand’s prosperity, and the standing of Tāmaki Makaurau as a global city with unique advantages in a world reshaped by the experience of pandemic
  • Right now, arts and culture are vital to the COVID-19 recovery. The arts are the heartbeat of Tāmaki and define who we are. Arts activities will play a major role in recreating a thriving city. The arts are a catalyst for confident, resilient, and cohesive communities. They are integral to society and critical to a community’s mental and physical wellbeing
  • The arts are an essential service, vital to reviving and thriving communities. They are a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have, and any cuts to arts provision should be a last resort, not a first option as the proposed budget indicates
  • The arts will also play a role in stimulating economic growth and recovery, particularly for the retail, hospitality, and domestic tourism sectors. The arts play a significant part in our region’s tourism, not only as an added attraction for visitors, but as promoters of the area and as generators of economic activity
  • During this time of restricted travel, local activities are even more crucial to maintain. Local Boards need to be supported in maintaining arts activities that are funded through their respective budgets
  • Central government’s Arts and Music Sector Recovery Package will inject a lifeline into a sector that has been “decimated by COVID-19”, as described by the Prime Minister. This package is not a substitute for ongoing investment in arts and culture at a local level; alone, it will not sustain Tāmaki Makaurau’s creative communities and industries through to recovery. This investment will be lost if Auckland Council don’t match this commitment to their own city’s arts organisations
  • Urgent investment is needed in arts, cultural, and creative sectors in Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget 2020/2021. Most arts organisations are already operating on difficult funding, and combined with substantial funding losses during lockdown, any cuts to arts funding could cause job losses and significant long-term damage to our city’s cultural infrastructure, particularly with regard to independent organisations that are not part of council. The short-term decisions Council is proposing will have longer-term impacts. “Growing back” later will be harder and more expensive than supporting arts and culture now
  • The assumptions on which Auckland Council’s Emergency Budget were based are no longer relevant now that New Zealand has moved to Alert Level 1. Venues, centres, and facilities are now allowed to reopen their doors and enable communities that have spent a long time in isolation to once again come together. Important community events, such as Matariki, can now occur. Getting artists and their work into the community will foster the growth of Tāmaki Makaurau’s economy and strengthen the health and well-being its communities
  • The arts function as an interconnected eco-system. Tāmaki Makaurau’s creative ecosystem is powerful, yet fragile. It is home to a myriad of grassroots organisations which are the backbone for the arts sector. They collectively contribute to the strength of Tāmaki Makaurau’s communities and economy, and they all need to be supported
  • The proposed Emergency Budget could see many of these organisations downsizing or disappearing from the landscape entirely, which would add to current unemployment. Maintaining and growing existing arts and culture infrastructure is necessary for Tāmaki Makaurau to remain a leading, world-class city that is an attractive place to live and work, locate a business, or visit as a domestic or international tourist
  • Many of our arts providers also actively contribute to community education outcomes and this important aspect of their operation may be lost if they close or have to strip back to a skeleton operation
  • In the proposed budget, if there is a rates increase of 2.5% instead of 3.5%, the only council activity significantly affected by further opex cuts in the proposed budget is Parks and Community, which will lose a further $16m and includes a lot of our city’s arts provision. The revival of cultural activities needs to be a priority
  • We recognise Auckland Council’s ongoing prudence in observing controls on borrowing and debt, but this emergency situation calls for more drastic action and further borrowing at this time will reduce the impact and longevity of a recession
  • We are concerned that, despite proposed opex cuts to Parks and Community (from $784m to $768m) and Economic and Cultural Development ($226m to $213m) that most other activities will in fact receive a budget increase, and that opex spending overall is also being increased (from $4.36b to $4.44b)
  • Te Uru plays a significant leadership role in promoting our community and supporting those who operate in this area – any cuts to Te Uru would be felt across the region (including through the potential loss of jobs, our quarterly newsletter and other promotional tools)
  • Please keep these significant cultural and recreational facilities as a top priority when you make your decisions over the emergency budget. Keep our local boards active so they can also participate in the ongoing support of the arts and culture. Without these facilities and boards, what will be left?

This submission calls for Auckland Council to:

- Maintain existing levels of funding for Arts, Community & Events programming and grants, with the move to increased investment in the next budget. Small grants can help to maintain many organisations

- Maintain existing levels of funding for Public Art spend

- Maintain existing levels of funding for all of Auckland’s art galleries, with the move to increased investment in the next budget. This includes Auckland Art Gallery, Te Uru, Te Tuhi, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Pah Homestead, McCahon House, The Upstairs Gallery and many local community galleries

- Re-commit to the six outcomes outlined in Council’s Auckland Plan 2050, specifically the Belonging and Participation outcome, as well as the goals of the Toi Whītiki strategy.

- Change the impact of Arts, Community & Events as High, rather than a Low priority.

This investment will allow Tāmaki Makaurau’s arts and cultural communities not only to survive, but to thrive as a contributor to the quality of life of the city, to Tāmaki Makaurau’s economy, and to its competitive standing as a world class city. We urge Auckland Council to demonstrate its commitment to the creativity, health, and wellbeing of its people. Council is in a unique opportunity to respond strategically to ensure the success and growth of the city for generations to come.

 

These suggested comments may not all fit on the online form, in which case you can make your submission with an attached document and just highlight key points with the form. We recommend you compose your submission offline and save it, to ensure you don't lose it while you're working, and then cut and paste onto the form.

Please give feedback to the Emergency Budget, which closes on the 19 June 2020. Consultation information and your opportunity to give online feedback can be found at:
www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/have-your-say

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