Regional cultural life in the 2000s was often associated with economic tourism opportunities. Cultural events attracted both publicity and revenue to a region. Since 2005 New Plymouth has been home to WOMAD, a three-day world music and dance festival (initially biennial, later held annually). In February each year Napier, a city known for its art deco architecture, held an Art Deco Weekend, in which people dressed in period style. Since 1993 the Hokonui Music Festival has been celebrated on the outskirts of Gore, a place renowned for country and folk music.
Fashionable Pacific Auckland
Auckland’s cultural profile reflected its position as the commercial centre of New Zealand and the most ethnically diverse city. Auckland was New Zealand’s fashion capital, since 2001 hosting New Zealand Fashion Week, the country’s premier fashion event. Auckland’s fashion scene began to blossom in 1979 when Elizabeth and Neville Findlay started the influential label Zambesi. They were joined by more local designers, including Workshop, Kate Sylvester, Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper.
Auckland was home to Polyfest (officially the ASB Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Islands Performing Arts Festival), which began at Hillary College, Ōtara in 1976, to maintain dance and music traditions. It grew to be the largest Polynesian festival in the world. In 2013, 9,000 performers were watched by more than 90,000 spectators over four days. There was also the Pasifika festival, which began in 1992 to showcase the city’s Pacific cultures.
Tales from the Coast
The West Coast has the unique distinction of being the setting for the only two New Zealand novels that have won the Man Booker Prize. Keri Hulme set much of the 1985 winner the bone people at Ōkārito, where she lived at the time, and Eleanor Catton set the 2013 winner, The luminaries, in Hokitika.
In the 2000s Wellington had a strong reputation for the arts. The city hosted the annual World of WearableArt, the biennial International Festival of the Arts (from 2014 the New Zealand Festival) and an annual Fringe Festival. Theatres such as Circa, Bats and (until 2013) Downstage staged a wide array of performances, while Toi Whakaari (the New Zealand Drama School) attracted young theatre talent. Victoria University brought a literary presence to the city, with its International Institute of Modern Letters supporting the work of many prominent writers, including Damien Wilkins, Bill Manhire and Eleanor Catton.
Wellington boasted a robust film industry, partly due to the presence of successful director Peter Jackson. Weta Workshop, a local costume, props and special-effects design company founded by Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger, received international attention from its involvement in Jackson’s Lord of the rings trilogy. The company contributed significantly to the city’s creative sector.