Arts support a draw when votes counted

New Plymouth's cost-cutting councillors took another another stab at the art world this week.

Earlier this month they voted in favour of charging admission fees to the Len Lye Centre and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and this week they moved to stop the gallery spending ratepayers' money on new artworks.

With the vote locked at 7-7, mayor Andrew Judd used his casting vote and the gallery kept its funding.

Councillor Len Houwers proposed the ratepayer funding be axed.

He said he did not have any issue with the gallery buying new works, but the ratepayers should not be funding any part of it.

The collection, which includes the pieces Carcass by Peter Peyer, and a video installation about the White Hart Hotel by Terry Urbahn, is valued at $67,809.

Despite the gallery negotiating discounts of more than $20,300, securing donations of about $24,000, and using reserves of $6800, Houwers said a ratepayer contribution of $16,628 was too much.

"If the people who value this art really value it then they will contribute even more," Houwers said.

"This money doesn't have to be spent. Is it really a priority for the district?"

Councillor Gordon Brown supported the proposal.

"I think we are rubbing the community's nose in it," he said.

"We have an art gallery that has been demolished for all intents and purposes, so to carry on spending and pretending life hasn't changed is insensitive."

Gallery director Simon Rees said that if the council did not approve the acquisitions a tick it would be going against its own policy.

Howie Tamati said he was ashamed that his fellow councillors had even suggested cutting the funding outside of an annual plan or long-term plan hearing.

"I really feel we are embarrassing ourselves in regards to our attitudes towards art," he said.

"If we make a decision like this we are going to get into conflict with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

"Some of you may look forward to that and enjoy that, but I think mediation would be really embarrassing."

Craig McFarlane said he would not support cutting the funding, especially as there had been no submissions made to the council about it during the draft annual plan.

"I will not make a decision ad hoc," he said.

Councillors Keith Allum, Shaun Biesiek, Gordon Brown, Murray Chong, Grant Coward, Len Houwers and John McLeod voted in favour of cutting the funding, while councillors Richard Handley, Colin Johnston, Richard Jordan, Craig McFarlane, Marie Pearce, Howie Tamati and mayor Andrew Judd voted against.

Taranaki Daily News