When I pretend I'm the Grand Poobah of Auckland arts (doesn't everyone?) then blessed are the North Shore meek who are poor in major arts venues, for a prominent art gallery cafe awaits them. Blessed are the kids with no school kapa haka, for I wish an independent local team upon them, and encourage them all to join.

I have a dream - and it includes an arts calendar regularly stuffed into every letter box in Auckland (digital schedules don't stick to the fridge).

None of these flights of fancy were particularly ambitious until last week's Auckland Council black budget rumours, but they're not in the draft Auckland Arts and Culture Action Plan. Maybe it's because, as Brian Rudman points out, the action plan is an avant-garde action plan that contains no actions.

Still, the council's aim is fantastic: to "integrate arts and culture into our everyday lives". The plan wants all Aucklanders to be able to boast that they "can have a creative experience any time of the week"; no more complaining that the arts are not in the mood or have a headache today.


The National Government made this goal much harder by scrapping evening-class funding a few years back, but the city is doing reasonably well. Live events have started touring around the city - some go to Mangere Arts Centre as well as the Aotea precinct. Currently, "Matariki on the move" is ingeniously welcoming neighbourhoods on to little-known urban marae, as well as offering excellent professional performances for free.

Offering visual art, gratis, are the west's Lopdell House and Corban Estate Arts Centre, the east's Te Tuhi, and southside's Mangere Arts Centre and various small public galleries, not forgetting Manukau's planned Te Papa branch. But above Devonport (as southerly as Te Atatu) the North Shore is lacking a significant fine arts drawcard. Getting rid of the shore's cultural desert civic legacy would greatly help to achieve the everyday-arts goal.

(Or is that what the plan's bizarre blind reference to Kaipara's Gibbs sculpture farm is about? Closed to the public, it was mentioned on the "world class facilities" list ahead of Auckland Art Gallery.)

However, the plan's discussion of non-Pakeha cultures as mere "assets" for international visitors is unbelievable. Contrary to plan belief, "diverse cultures" are not placed on this isthmus by God so that a Pakeha-controlled council can exploit them for economic gain. Instead, the onus is on the council to fund the cultures of all its residents - particularly tangata whenua - for the direct benefit of all Aucklanders, not primarily as an "ethnic" brand to slap on airport signs for tourist operators.

The plan talks a lot about Auckland's cultural "uniqueness" as a commercial "point of difference" and not as something which indicates we have responsibility for rare taonga. On the other hand, newsflash: culture doesn't have to be unique in order to be valuable. This is important as much of what the plan describes as unique is not.

Where's the part where they ask Aucklanders for their artistic values and cultural needs? Oh, that's right - in my dreams.

Public submissions on the Auckland Arts and Culture Action Plan close July 24.