Jacinda Ardern unveils lifeline of more than $57m for artists, museums and heritage services hit by COVID-19

Artists, museums and heritage services are getting lifeline of more than $57 million, mostly from the Government's $50 billion COVID-19 Recovery Fund unveiled in Budget 2020. 

Creative New Zealand, the national arts agency that invests in and advocates for the arts, is getting a $25 million boost, while New Zealand's national museum in Wellington Te Papa Tongarewa is receiving $18 million. 

The fund will also provide $1.4m for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, $2m for the Museum Hardship Fund to be administered by Te Papa, $2.03m for Royal New Zealand Ballet, and $4m for the Waitangi National Trust Board.

Heritage New Zealand will get $11.364m from the Government, $5.364m of which is covered by the fund and $6m already announced in Budget 2020. 

The Government has also announced $31.8m for Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the country's audio-visual treasure trove, to prevent the loss of the collection which is rapidly deteriorating - and this will be paid for separately from the fund. 

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern said the cultural sector was amongst the worst hit by the economic impact of COVID-19. 

The sector has struggled under the lockdown and gathering rules - which finally increase to 100 on Friday - as well as the loss of international tourists. 

"Museums, galleries and heritage sites closed, and individual artists and arts organisations like dance and theatre companies saw their incomes decimated almost overnight," Ardern said. 

"Funding announced today will help them get back on their feet. New jobs will be created, and the sector will innovate and connect with new audiences."

The Government is hoping to revive the sector by encouraging local tourism, and a trans-Tasman travel 'bubble' is in the pipeline, pending approval from Australia. 

Associate Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson said New Zealand's museums are major tourist attractions, and not only provide jobs for Kiwis but are important educational facilities. 

He said they will "be important as we see the return of domestic tourism and look towards establishing a trans-Tasman bubble". 

When asked if the trans-Tasman 'bubble' could be in place by September, Ardern said: "I think that could be realistic."

She said she's been "careful about putting down specific dates" but has been "very focused on making sure that as soon as we are ready, then we can move and that we won't be constrained by needing to do administrative or logistical work at our border". 

It's been predicted that up to 100,000 workers in tourism could be made redundant because of COVID-19. The tourism sector got a $400m fund in Budget 2020. 

The latest Stats NZ figures show job numbers plummeted by 37,500 in April as the economic impact of COVID-19 has crippled businesses in New Zealand. 

The Government unveiled the $50 billion fund in Budget 2020 to respond to the economic impact of COVID-19, and Treasury estimates public debt to grow from 19 percent of GDP last year to 54 percent by 2022. 

Some of the $50 billion fund had been spent, but $20 billion was left for the Government to respond to the crisis in the months that followed.

The Prime Minister said the arts sector represents 4 percent of New Zealand's GDP and that the wage subsidy scheme has helped to keep it afloat during the alert level restrictions. 

She said there is huge demand for New Zealand artists, and recognised the importance of getting venues up and running before the peak summer season.