New Zealanders are generally regarded as generous contributors to philanthropic causes. But New Zealand mostly lacks the great fortunes that support the arts in countries such as the United States. Still, the country has had its share of important patrons, starting with household names like Alexander Turnbull, founder of the Turnbull Library and Dunedin’s Thomas Morland Hocken, whose collection became the core of the Hocken Library.
More recent patrons include James Wallace and Jenny Gibbs (supporting visual arts) and Denis and Verna Adam (supporting multiple art forms and initiatives including Victoria University’s Adam Art Gallery, Nelson’s triennial chamber music festival and creative writing).
The history of the visual arts in particular was also the story of private supporters, from the building up of private collections in the earliest days, to the work of dealers, to the redevelopment of the Auckland Art Gallery in the 2000s.
Sometimes, a sponsor’s name has become almost synonymous with the event sponsored. The Westpac School Music Contest (1965–98, later with other sponsors) was known in music education circles simply as ‘The Westpac’. The Mobil Song Quest (1956–2004, later the Lexus Song Quest), a competition for classical singers, and the Loxene Golden Disc awards (1966–72) were both strongly identified with the sponsoring company. (Loxene was a brand of shampoo.)
Corporate sponsorship is actively sought by arts organisations and events. The most valuable involve naming rights, in which the sponsor’s name becomes attached to the name of the company, or to its tours or productions. Long-running examples have included the NBR New Zealand Opera, Vector Wellington Orchestra and the ‘Tower Tutus on Tour’ seasons of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Foundations and trusts
Foundations and trusts, sometimes established by prominent patrons, are a further form of private support for the arts. The Chartwell Trust, for the promotion of the visual arts, is a prominent example. The Arts Foundation of New Zealand, established in 1998 by several major arts patrons, has since 2000 annually given laureate awards of $50,000 to distinguished New Zealanders across the arts. In 2013 it began promoting a 21st-century phenomenon in funding for the arts: crowd-funding, in which projects are made possible by small donations from many people.
Straight to the point
Dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter was given an Arts Foundation Laureate award in 2010. Worth $50,000, the award meant ‘during the next few years, especially while I’m studying in Paris, that edge of financial desperation will be removed. I can now consider going to the dentist.’1
Promoting charitable giving
In the 21st century the government has sought to encourage charitable giving in general, through changes to the law. In 2005 it established the Charities Commission, with which charities can register for tax advantages. In 2008 it introduced tax incentives to foster higher individual and corporate donations. And in 2010 it introduced payroll giving, allowing donations to be deducted regularly from salary payments, with immediate tax relief.
It also set up a Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce. By 2014 progress was advanced on most of the Taskforce’s recommendations. These included new forms of recognition for philanthropists, advice on fund-raising for cultural organisations, and a pilot programme for matching funding, to reward cultural organisations that increased their income from private giving.
Nevertheless, public funding is usually needed to supplement private support. A large survey of cultural organisations in 2007/8 found that private giving made up 13 % of contributions received. This proportion was expected to grow.