Editorial: Investing in arts pays dividends

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

3 comments
Public piano on Grey Street
Public piano on Grey Street

Earlier this week, a proposed salary of $90,000 for the person appointed to lead Creative Tauranga was dubbed "way over the top" by city councillor Gail McIntosh.

The role itself is yet to be decided, it may be a general manager, chief executive or director. Either way its purpose is to lead Creative Tauranga, a key organisation in growing our local arts scene with an annual operating income of $538,000, just over half of which is rates-funded.

Its annual expenses for the year ended March 31 were $411,400.

Arts and culture are what brings a city alive - whether it's ensuring there are great shows on for you to attend, or supporting local artists in their work, or simply beautifying our city, so you have something nice to look at on your way for morning coffee.
Rosie Dawson-Hewes

In my opinion, a $90,000 salary for a nearly $1 million responsibility is reasonable, particularly if that person is highly skilled and revitalises the organisation.

With the right person in that role, Creative Tauranga could help earn more for our city through its activities.

The arts are often the first thing to be cut in any public budget; seen as a nice-to-have as opposed to a necessity.

And, while the arts may not be as essential as, say, running water or flushing toilets, they are vital to creating a vibrant, thriving city.

Arts and culture are what brings a city alive - whether it's ensuring there are great shows on for you to attend, or supporting local artists in their work, or simply beautifying our city, so you have something nice to look at on your way for morning coffee.

A thriving arts and cultural sector gives people another reason to live here. It gets people out of their homes and spending money, which aids the local economy. It gives tourists additional reasons to visit, beyond just our beaches, contributing to a great experience of our region. It creates jobs. It helps attract talented people to live here, which helps our city grow and be more successful.

Creative Tauranga does a lot of good work in this city. It works hard to connect people and organisations, through the arts.

Its most visible achievement in the past few years is easily the Hairy Maclary sculptures on the waterfront. The organisation spent five years fundraising, despite the many naysayers, to find a home for those dogs in our city.

And those bronze canines had more than 30,000 visitors last August alone. That's a lot of people who might not otherwise have been drawn to our CBD.

Art connects and inspires. Heading up an arts organisation requires vision and tenacity. It requires leadership and business nous. One has to balance commercial needs with cultural ones.

Tauranga has some of the lowest wages in the country.

In order to attract the best possible people to our city, people who will help us build it and make it truly great, we have to put our money where our mouth is.

We have to pay wages that reflect the skills and talent we want for those roles.

Or, as one commenter on our Facebook page so eloquently put it - "You need a decent salary to get a great person ... pay peanuts, get monkeys!"

- Bay of Plenty Times

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