The curtain has fallen on the country's Stage Challenge - a victim, apparently, of its own star ascending to a level that became too costly.

This global celebration of secondary students' dance, drama and design abilities has been active in New Zealand for 25 years.

It is a performing arts competition enjoyed by thousands of students in Britain, Japan, Dubai and Australia.

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According to, last year 17,000 New Zealand students took part in Stage Challenge and its little sister, J Rock, which is non-competitive and aimed at primary/intermediate students.

J Rock also has a spending cap of $2500 per production.

Stage Challenge's spending cap isn't immediately apparent, at first glance on the New Zealand website. But the site is rich with praise for the benefits of "SC", and a key tenet is enabling students to have fun without using alcohol or drugs.

The benefits are such that in 2005 Jan Trayes from the University of Auckland undertook a PhD (Social Psychology) which investigated Stage Challenge's impact on young people.

So it seems a little odd that suddenly SC has become too expensive to produce - in a way, a victim of its own success.

J Rock has a $2500 cap - is there no cap on what secondary schools spend on SC productions, and if there is, why not reduce it?

SC relies on government and corporate sponsorships, grants, participation fees and ticket sales to cover the cost of producing the events.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman says SC has received $267,000 annually since 2016 - about 33 per cent of what she understood to be the competition's annual cost.


That puts the cost of running SC in NZ annually at just under $800,000.

Stage Challenge Foundation producer Helen Sjoquist says there has been a steady increase in costs "without a corresponding increase in revenue from sponsorships, grants, participation fees and ticket sales".

A petition has started to reinstate Stage Challenge - before signing it, I'm keen to hear that all avenues have been exhausted in terms of SC's future, and why wasn't dialling back costs an option that would have allowed it to continue?