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Speech

Creative Economy Conversation

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 3 May 2017
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.

Kia ora tātou katoa.

Thank you for inviting David and me here today. I feel like we are among friends – because as many of you know – the arts and the creative industries are close to our hearts.

As well as being keen arts lovers, David and I both have experience of governance roles with arts organisations.  In fact we have, at different times, chaired the NZ Film Commission and have been Trustees of the New Zealand international Arts Festival and Directors of New Zealand Opera.  In David’s case he was also Chair of the latter two.

To round out our credentials in the creative sector, I have also been Chair of the NZ Film Archive, a trustee of the VUW and Spark Art collection trusts, and a trustee of the NZSO Foundation, while David has chaired the NZ Federation of Film Societies, has been Deputy Chair of The QEII Arts Council (the fore-runner of Creative NZ), a Board Member of Te Papa and Chair of the New Zealand Film Production Fund.

He still chairs the NZ Opera Foundation and the NZ Film Heritage Fund.

I'm not sure what this all demonstrates – perhaps that we have each been around for a while, but hopefully it shows our enthusiasm and support of New Zealand's creative sector.  We are both keen to do whatever we can to support talented, creative and innovative New Zealanders.

So we are delighted to be here, albeit briefly, as part of the Creative Economy Conversation and we very much support We Create’s goal to accelerate the growth of the creative industries.

On my first day as Governor-General, I signalled that the strategic themes of my programme were going to be creativity, innovation, diversity and leadership.

I chose these areas because I believe that they are all essential to build a sustainable and prosperous future for our country.

It is important to know what base we are working from, so We Create’s initial research helps us get a better understanding of the economic contribution of the book, music, television and film sectors – and I was interested to see that it already equals the contribution from forestry.  

Of course it all depends on what you want to include. For example, recently we saw a great example of the leverage effect when we were in the back blocks of the King country. It’s called Hairy Feet Waitomo, and is a flourishing tourism experience that came off the back of hosting a two-week location shoot for The Hobbit. It’s just one of hundreds of business opportunities that have come out of our film industry.

I like to think we could emulate the Scandinavian countries – in terms of increasing the economic role and contribution of our creative industries.

I am keen to see what the report on the evolution of Kiwi innovation, presented at the conference this morning, had to say. I am interested to see how we are doing in our move from a ‘make-do’ culture – to sophisticated applications of innovative and creative thinking – because clearly that’s what we need to address the many challenges that face us in the 21st century.

Quite apart from these compelling economic reasons for supporting creativity and innovation, there is another, equally valid, reason.

Creative activity is central to the health and wellbeing of any society. We don’t have to justify the existence or worth of a film, book, tv programme, poem, painting, song, opera, or dance that moves us, speaks to us about what it means to be human, connects us with others, crosses cultural boundaries, or makes us see things in a new way.

Creativity in all forms inspires us and defines us as New Zealanders. It defines who we are, in all our diversity and complexity. It's a reflection of our cultural heritage. And it feeds into the innovation that we need to succeed as a forward looking, 21st century nation that can contribute and prosper in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

It seems to me, that in a globalised world, this kind of human connection is more important than ever.

With the digital world’s insatiable demand for content, there are so many more opportunities to hear and see each other’s stories. And there will be so many opportunities to draw on the talents and technologies represented here today.

Next week David and I will support New Zealand creative excellence at the oldest and greatest of the global contemporary art exhibitions – the Venice Biennale.

I will be honoured to officially open Lisa Reihana’s stunning exhibition, Emissaries, which is a wonderfully innovative multi-media work, with a substantial digital component.

Quite apart from its technical brilliance, Emissaries is worth close attention for what it has to say.

Lisa reminds us that the process of colonisation in the Pacific and the meeting of vastly different cultures is not merely of historical interest – but is a continuing encounter and exchange, central to the lives of anyone who lives in this part of the world.

It will be an immense privilege to represent the people of Aotearoa New Zealand when Emissaries takes its place on the world stage at Venice.

To my knowledge, this is the first time a Governor-General has officially opened a New Zealand exhibition at the Venice Biennale. It’s an example of one of the lesser-known aspects of the Governor-General’s role – representing New Zealand overseas at significant international events, and as a kind of Ambassador for NZ Inc.

My international schedule provides an excellent opportunity for me to be an emissary for New Zealand creativity and innovation. I am keen to be kept informed about what is happening in your industries – so that I can represent your interests effectively.

Within New Zealand, I will do what I can in my programme to promote and highlight the value of creativity and innovation.

Hosting an artist-in-residence programme at Government House is one way in which we show our support, and we recently hosted a forum at Government House for emerging artists, focussing on the internationalisation of their art practice.

We are exploring other ways we can showcase New Zealand creativity and talent – and so we are keen to hear your ideas.

We are always interested in reaching younger New Zealanders and I was hugely impressed recently when I went to a rehearsal of the Secondary Students’ Choir. When I heard them sing, I could see why we have produced so many extraordinary opera stars.

Whether or not those choristers choose to become professional singers, they will have benefited enormously from their training and their exposure to great works of art.

I understand and support the current drive to boost STEM subjects in our education system, but they are only part of the mix. The arts are the leavening, and things really get cooking when STEM becomes STEAM.

I am well aware that I am preaching to the converted here. You all appreciate that aesthetics and technology, creativity and engineering, precision and flair are not incompatible. It’s not a matter of either/or. The creative industries demand that breadth of skills, knowledge and sensibilities.

You all know that creative and innovative thinking are not some mysterious, spontaneous phenomena.

You know about the graft, the technical challenges, the thinking about context and what has gone before, about shared understandings, the expectations of your audience and about success and disappointment.

And no doubt you have an eye on automation and artificial intelligence, and how they will impact on creative industries just as they have on others.

So all the more reason to ensure that we have the best creative minds at work. Algorithms might come up with good ideas, a computer might be able to churn out a workable script or edit footage, but it will be the drive, passion and humanity of a flesh-and-blood person that will create the works that last.

It appears that things are going so well here in Wellington that we don’t have enough of those flesh-and-blood people to meet the demand. I congratulate LookSee Wellington for its innovative approach to getting tech-savvy creatives to come to New Zealand.

And I wish you all the best as you work together to ensure that opportunities for growth and internationalisation are maximised.

I hope that, in the process, you can raise the profile of your sector, and increase awareness of the role it plays in the knowledge economy, and in our nation’s future prosperity.

We will do our best to support you.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 3 May 2017

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