We have acknowledged on previous occasions that the Point of Order Trough Monitor was not calibrated to pick up every example of dubiously spent public money.
But when our monitor misses examples of eyebrow-raising grants, investments, loans and what-have-you, other monitors and watchdogs are on the job. The Taxpayers’ Union for example.
The other day it drew attention to Creative NZ’s track record for funding some pretty odd art projects.
The Taxpayers’ Union has focused on the value of the Arts Continuity Grant, which it describes as a COVID-19 response fund which has so far paid out $16 million in grants to a variety of questionable short-term arts projects.
Many of the descriptions of the projects funded under this programme are described as “frankly, incomprehensible” and:
“It’s hard to see how bureaucrats in Creative NZ can make an objective judgment on which projects are worthy of funding, and which aren’t.
“The resulting handouts speak for themselves. Creative NZ is fighting COVID-19 by spending taxpayer money on plays about menstrual cycles, Māori ‘healing theatre’, and ‘Indigenised Hypno-soundscapes’. That’s madness and it reflects terribly on the Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage – who happens to be Jacinda Ardern.
“These grants are massively unfair to taxpayers, with the benefits skewed toward politically-connected Wellington weirdos. Handouts for fringe interest groups mean less money is available for tax relief that would reward productive work.”
Point of Order visited the Creative NZ website and learned that this continuity fund
“ … is offered to support a short-term arts project, or the stage of a project, that can be delivered within a changed and evolving environment as a result of COVID-19. Projects can include the creation and/or presentation of new work. Existing projects submitted to our suspended funds can be reframed and resubmitted. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis with weekly decision-making.”
Sums up to $50,000 have been on offer.That’s good going when you check out the median weekly income from all sources (June 2020 quarter) was $652 a week, or $33,904 a year. For self-employed people the median weekly income was $671 ($34,8920 and for government transfers it was $364 ($18,928).
Imaginative people can do better than that by getting a slice of the Creative NZ action – 637 projects have received taxpayer funding under the Arts Continuity Grant.
The Taxpayers’ Union published a list of highlights from the grants announced so far.
One beneficiary has been awarded $21,000 for a project described as:
Towards a Māori, queer, young adult novel adaptation of Hamlet based on my innovative unproduced screenplay ‘Hamarete’.
We trust no-one can be accused of cultural appropriation for whatever has been done or is being done to Shakespeare’s masterpiece with $21,000 of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
A more modest $16,766 has been granted …
Towards the development of a first draft of a play that explores the menstrual cycle.
We eagerly await getting tickets for what we imagine will be a period drama.
Other highlights plucked from the list of grant winners by the Taxpayers Union are
To research and write the first draft of a novel about male affection in hypermasculine spaces.
Towards the composition, recording and production of music inspired by the psychogeography of the West Coast.
To support the personnel costs and post-production editing for an art documentary based on Papua New Guinea tattoo practice and revival.
Towards writing a children’s picture book (text only) about sustainable community activist Helen Dew.
To create and develop an online publication, arts learning resources and musical content based on children’s drag theatre show, The Glitter Garden.
Towards intensive artistic research and development.
Towards the composition and instrumental arrangement of 10 songs for children, from ideas given by children.
Towards writing poetry that explores indigeneity and love in the time of climate change.
Towards writing a novel about the collapse of democracy in an association of alpaca breeders.
Towards a dance concept video showcasing the impact Coronavirus has had on the New Zealand Chinese community.
Towards an Indigenised Hypno-soundscape to take you to the imagined worlds of our Kōrero Pūrākau.
Towards development of a movement technique that guides and empowers the participants in becoming specialists in their own body.
Towards 3 x hour-long live-streamed electronic music performances with live visual animations, from a kitchen in Paekakariki.
Towards a wananga for Maori healing theatre practitioners.
Towards composing and recording ten original compositions inspired by emotions felt during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Towards development of a new body of work exploring modernism, feminism & queerness, with specific reference to the Otago region.
Towards revision and editing of a sailing memoir.
Towards designing new Māori typefaces for print and digital.
Towards the writing, arranging and preproduction of music that forms a song-cycle from the suburban labyrinth.
The post on Kiwiblog which reports this largess to the arts community ended by suggesting someone ask the Minister of Arts, Culture, and Heritage – the kindly Jacinda Ardern – ,what she thinks.