In the 1980s the Labour government led by David Lange strayed from its social-democrat roots, adopting free market classical liberalism and setting in train a rapid programme of deregulation and public asset sales. The approach dubbed Rogernomics after Minister of Finance Roger Douglas was viewed as the antipodean version of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.
The high priests of the prevailing free market philosophy also insisted on a clear separation between policy and service/funding delivery and eventually they got around to bringing the arts into line, notably with the restructuring of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, which became Creative New Zealand with a council responsible for policy and three boards established to oversee the distribution of funds and services.
However, new developments are afoot. A bill which will streamline the governance of Creative New Zealand has passed its first reading in Parliament. The Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa Bill addresses the overly complex structure of Creative New Zealand, creating a 13-member Arts Council responsible for policy, strategy and funding allocations, replacing the more unwieldy division of responsibilities between the existing Arts Council, Arts Board, Te Waka Toi and the Pacific Arts Committee which are governed by 28 members.
The new streamlined structure will be welcomed by most in the art world, particularly if the efficiencies arts minister Christopher Finlayson is aiming for reduce operating costs and free up staff to focus on artists, arts organisations and arts development. But while restructuring is a good start, let's hope the minister remembers that the performance of the new organisation will ultimately depend on the people he appoints to govern it.
Image: Old Public Trust Building (Wellington) which houses Creative New Zealand