Covid-19: Delta-related losses for Aotearoa's cultural sectors total $466m

The South Island has not had a case of Covid-19 in the community for more than a year, despite that they woke to news that another big event has been canned.

The country's arts and cultural sector has lost potential earnings of almost half a billion dollars in just over a month because of the Delta alert level restrictions.

Manatū Taonga​, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, has put the estimated loss of economic activity between August 18, when Delta restrictions came in, and September 21, to be $466 million.

And because of that estimate, the Government’s decided to bring forward a $37.5m lifeline for arts and culture.

“While there are trade-offs from bringing funding forward, it is vital that the short-term needs of the sector are met because without that, longer-term outcomes for the cultural recovery package cannot be achieved,” said Arts Minister Carmel Sepuloni in a statement on Wednesday.

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Six60 held a concert in January in Auckland. A number of live events have since been cancelled or postponed.
Six60 held a concert in January in Auckland. A number of live events have since been cancelled or postponed.

The ministry said if it had been business as usual, the arts and culture economic activity for the Delta-affected period would have been an estimated $1.08 billion. But it was only $610m.

That equates to a decline in economic activity of $13.3m for the 35 days measured.

The $37.5m the Government is bringing forward will come from its $374m Arts and Culture Covid Recovery Fund.

That included up to $22.5m for “confidence for cultural performances and events” – described as a criteria-based contingency fund compared with a live events insurance scheme, which the sector has been asking for; $10m for cultural agencies to support at-risk artists, infrastructure and projects; and a $5m relief fund to support organisations at risk of ceasing trading.

Organisers of one the biggest summer festivals won't hold the event unless it can operate under level one rules.

The Government is also extending the Screen Production Recovery Fund to June 2022.

The funding would help those in need of immediate relief, and who had been unable to continue operating, Sepuloni said in the statement. “It’ll also give the sector confidence to plan and host performances and events without fear of significant losses if cancellation or postponement occurs due to Covid-19.”

A survey published this week by the New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) revealed that at least 428 events and 444 postponements had occurred due to the Delta response. More than half of 156 respondents – 55 per cent – said the Delta restrictions had a “considerable” financial impact on their organisation, while a further 23 per cent said it had a moderate impact.

“This represents just a small portion of the industry and considering the significant size of the event sector, the total financial impact will undoubtedly be many orders of magnitude higher,” said Ségolène de Fontenay, NZEA’s general manager.

Arts Minister Carmel Sepuloni says there are vital trade-offs from shuffling the funding around.
Arts Minister Carmel Sepuloni says there are vital trade-offs from shuffling the funding around.

The live events sector was facing a skills shortage, she said, with “many” contractors having left the industry already due to Covid-19 as a result of redundancies, lack of access to work, and general uncertainty about the sector’s future. “More are likely to follow.”

De Fontenay asked for improved MIQ systems, a more comprehensive events insurance scheme, and a risk-based approach to live events at level 2.

Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) general manager Sally-Anne Coates said the live events sector could not properly operate unless in level 1. EVANZ supported mandatory vaccination certificates for people attending events as a trade-off for them being able to go ahead.

“I’ve hit fatigue. I’m tired. It’s like a merry-go-round,” said Vicki Cooksley, president of Entertainment Technology New Zealand. “I’m seeing a struggling sector across events, entertainment and performing arts. The biggest frustration right now is the uncertainty.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said they were working towards Covid-19 safety at summer festivals.