Jacinda Ardern launches artist jobseeker support package based on Helen Clark-era policy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has launched an artist jobseeker support scheme to build on a policy launched by former Prime Minister Helen Clark. 

It is part of a $175 million package unveiled on Friday to fund career support for creative jobseekers, help stimulate employment in the sector, and rescue the music industry. 

Ardern, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, said she expects thousands of jobs will be supported through the package, to help the arts and creative sector, which contributes nearly $11 billion a year to GDP. 

It includes $7.9 million for career support for creative jobseekers, a programme that will be progressively rolled out to support artists back into sustainable work. 

The Government hasn't provided a lot of detail about it, but says it will "build on the most successful aspects" of the former Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) programme, launched in 2001 under Clark. 

The scheme allowed beneficiaries to list the arts as their preferred job field for the first time. Artists on the scheme would receive the unemployment benefit and get training from private contractors in how to get work in their field. 

But it attracted criticism after The Dominion revealed in 2002 that 17 hopefuls were using the benefit to try and become TV presenters, as well as clowns, acrobats and stuffed-toy makers.

It follows the Government's announcement on Monday that full-time workers who lost their job because of the economic impact of COVID-19 will be eligible for tax-free weekly payments of almost $500 a week for a period of 12 weeks.

It sparked backlash from anti-poverty advocates who said it created "two-tiers of unemployed" because the Income Relief Payment is nearly double the after-tax base Jobseeker benefit, which is $250.74.

The $175 million for the arts includes $70m over three years for a Creative Arts Recovery and Employment Fund that will support the rebuild of creative industries by commissioning projects at a national and local level.

The Government maintains it will help to create employment, mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities, and also ensure vital skills, talent and creative infrastructure is not lost. 

A further $60 million will go towards a Cultural Innovation Fund - a contestable fund, which means its aim is to provide funding support for research and advocacy. 

For example, the fund will be used to create new ways to add value to the economy, particularly through digital. It will include "supporting innovative approaches to Māori art forms and traditional knowledge". 

A Cultural Capability Fund will see $20 million earmarked for "immediate needs in response to COVID-19", such as legal services, online delivery and audience development.

The remaining $16.5 million will go towards a New Zealand Music Recovery Fund, specifically directed towards the contemporary popular music industry. 

It's split into a $7.1m to boost NZ on Air's music programmes, $5m for a Live Music Touring Fund to support Kiwi acts as alert levels permit, $3m immediate support for music venues, and $1.4m to help musicians recoup lost income. 

The Government expects the contemporary music and live music support to sustain a combined 2900 jobs over two years, produce 455 new song releases and 150 live music tours throughout New Zealand.

The first wave of funding becomes available from July. 

It follows Ardern's announcement on Thursday that artists, museums and heritage services are getting a lifeline of more than $57 million, mostly from the Government's $50 billion COVID-19 Recovery Fund unveiled in Budget 2020.