Secrets, lies and the power of art

22:51, Aug 20 2014

I haven't read Nicky Hager's book but there are a couple of issues reported in the media I'm really happy about.

The first is that it re-establishes the power of paper. I loathe the concept of reading a screen. I love books. You can blog any rubbish you like but if you want to make a powerful, passionate statement you have to undertake the hard work of research and the isolation and self-discipline to committing pen to paper.

Dirty Politics has been waved around in Parliament and television cameras have focused on boxes full of books. Waving around an iPad in Parliament wouldn't be half as dramatic.

The other aspect I'm thrilled about is that his book has exposed the misuse of the Official Information Act. I have recently been a victim of this act with a proposal for a James Bond film in Winton. Patrick Gillies, a film tutor from SIT and myself developed the brilliant concept of a 3D movie that would be marketed in China and make millions of dollars for Southland.

Then some young student used the local government version of the Official Information Act to legally hack into our emails and expose all our plans in The Southland Times. It won't surprise me if next week some scumbag Hollywood director doesn't fly into Invercargill and think to himself, "to hell with Mayor Shadbolt, to hell with the Invercargill City Council, the SIT film school can get stuffed! I'll just steal their intellectual property. I'll make a James Bond film in Winton and I'll become a multimillionaire".

He won't have to think creatively, be innovative or spend months discussing and developing this project, he can just grab our concept with his greedy little LA fingers and we have no form of protection. These acts relating to freedom of information were brought in with the best of intentions by the Labour Party and rigidly enforced by a Stalinist army of ombudsmen. They thought if the public had the right to know, this would prevent corruption but it's been used for the worst form of corruption imaginable.


Allegations have been made that the SIS feed information to bloggers, who then use the Official Information Act to destroy political opponents. It's time this act is booted into oblivion where it belongs.

Congratulations to the Invercargill Musical Theatre Company on their outstanding production of Mamma Mia! I saw the musical in Melbourne about 10 years ago and thought our local production was far superior.

In my previous column, I praised the smelter, the Southern Institute of Technology and our success in the field of agriculture but the arts are also of vital importance when it comes to inspiration, innovation and community pride.

Watching all those bright, talented singers, musicians, actors and technicians produce a musical of such brilliance lifts our spirits and assures us that Southland does indeed have a bright creative future. It also lifts the morale of locals to know they can enjoy international productions without having to travel overseas.

The music by Abba contained all the well-established musical themes of heartbreak and lost love but what made a simple comic storyline so poignant was that the band itself had lived through the sadness of separation.

The Invercargill Musical Theatre Company has produced 100 shows over the past 61 years and every Southlander should try to see at least one production. Over the past 21 years several of our councillors and council staff have been involved in theatrical productions and musicals. I've even played in a few cameo roles myself.

I assure you we are not deluded in believing we are brilliant performers. It's because we've enjoyed the experience and it's council's way of saying thank you for your commitment, we really appreciate your contribution to our city's lifestyle.

The Invercargill City Council has also, along with SIT, the ILT, Venture Southland and the Community Trust of Southland, been a rock solid supporter of the film industry, live theatre and musicals. At present there are three feature films under discussion and our consortium has made three feature films in the last decade. The most successful has been The World's Fastest Indian because it led to the Burt Munro Challenge which brings in $1 million per year. The films have also generated employment opportunities for students at SIT.

One of the best articles written on our local film industry is in this years the life magazine.

When it comes to the promotion of the arts I accept that a lot of Southlanders are not really involved. Even though 12 shows of Mamma Mia! attracted almost 12,000 Southlanders it means 83,000 of you didn't go.

When I was at school, males who were interested in the arts were mocked and ridiculed as arty-farties and were an easy target for philistines. In my last play I was cast as Charley's Aunt in the play of that name.

In West Auckland that was virtually a death sentence. Even though I played senior rugby league for Te Atatu North it didn't save me. Outrageous Fortune was a documentary not a soap opera. But despite the trauma and abuse I still believe the arts tell an important part of the story of Aotearoa. If you possibly can, go and see a movie called The Dark Horse. I found it an emotionally disturbing story of gangs, violence and chess but it was based on a true story. It covers some similar social landscapes revealed in Once Were Warriors but is a lot more positive. I hope you are moved by this film as much as I was.

Tim Shadbolt is Invercargill city mayor.

The Southland Times