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“You want a prediction about the weather?…….. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you for the rest of your lives!” Phil O’Connor, in Groundhog Day, 1993

Jerry Howlett: Ascend, 2019 (diorama – mixed media)

Groundhog Day refers to a 1993 film where a TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event, is caught in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. He does this for 10 years until a revelation causes him to break this pattern and consciously move on.

We met recently with two policy advisors from Ministry of Culture and Heritage (MCH) about Artists Resale Royalties, an issue being revisited after more than twelve years when the Labour Government produced a detailed discussion document including international research and analysis and referencing the changing creative landscape of Aotearoa.  New research is being undertaken, a new report will be written by MCH policy advisors and once completed will be presented to Government for consideration or to the public for consultation. In the meantime, 81 countries have adopted ARR.

One of our team members also attended a workshop in Wellington where the needs of creatives were discussed with a view to supporting sustainability by providing appropriate career and business development services. This discussion has also been ongoing since 2007 with a raft of initiatives researched and posited and in some instances added to policy – for example, Creative Internships and the reintroduction of PACE (Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment). In 2009 we met with the founder of a recently established UK agency, Creative and Cultural Skills, invited to NZ to discuss internships and apprenticeships, and the potential for establishing a creative sector Industry Training Organisation (ITO). While this agency has since provided and brokered 1000’s of apprenticeships in the UK, NZ has made no commitment to such a service, despite policy promises and ongoing research identifying the need.

Creative NZ completed a survey on the needs for artists, which identified three priorities:

  1. Fair reward – working towards:
  • ensuring lower-paid creative professionals are paid in line with technical professionals
  • lifting pay to the point where creative professionals start to feel it is a fair reward for their work.
  1. Sustainability – working to make the careers of mid-career and established creative professionals more sustainable through more continuous creative endeavours.
  1. Emerging creative professionals – working with the sector to find better ways to support creative professionals at the start of their career.

These outcomes were identified in much earlier research and formed part of Labour’s Arts Policy from at least 2011. Depot Artspace has been both advocating for and delivering services that address each of these issues since 1999 when we set up a mentoring scheme for creatives and most recently an online platform, Revolution Creative that supports sustainability.

In her newly released book Promises, Promises Claire Anderson addresses the question of why political parties continue to repeat promises, even over decades, that they never keep and asserts we continue to be wooed by the dream of what might be.

And so, while the strategists and policy makers busily beaver away revisiting, reviewing, revising and reproducing reports that address the needs and hopes of creatives identified over decades, the creative sector continues to languish. 

Since 2002, we have:

  • Run Helen Clark’s innovative PACE/ArtsLab programme. For 18 years we have proven the value of professional development for creatives as we continue to run the most comprehensive and successful arts employment programme in Aotearoa.
  • Successfully run and brokered apprenticeships and internships and subsequently advocated for a national scheme supported by an ITO to ensure regulated and recognised training. From 2007 we lobbied for an internship scheme and a creative ITO that would establish training criteria and outcomes for the sector. In 2009 we were invited by MCH to meet Tom Bewick who headed a new UK- agency, Creative and Cultural Skills, set up to develop, deliver and broker creative apprenticeships.  Ten years later we are no closer to this objective while CCS has run and supported 1000’s of apprenticeships.
  • Documented and made public the successes of internships, along with the extent of exploitation when they are not regulated.
  • Advocated for legal assistance for artists and established a Creative People’s Centre where legal information was freely available online.
  • Supported the call for Artists Resale Royalties to assist sustainability by undertaking research and producing a book on the subject. 


We appreciate the 2017 post-election imperative of Mark Amery regarding government’s commitment to the arts, but we doubt whether even the sector itself can activate necessary structural change, at least for as long as we put faith in promises. 

If this new government really values the arts, it now needs to start acting with real vision to its potential to impact across society at every level. That requires assistance from those who know the potential of the arts – the sector itself – to shape and activate that vision. Mark Amery 2017 Advocating for the Arts on The Big Idea

So we have our reference to Groundhog Day, where the life of the hapless star is a nightmare of repetition – and approximates our own efforts at making a difference  to creative sector sustainability, except that our nightmare has being going on for much longer.

Jerry Howlett: The Fall, 2019 (diorama –mixed media)

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