Monday, March 25, 2013

The Auckland Festival


The Auckland Council is making a mistake if they think that we can run a cheaper or cut-down Auckland Festival. This year, overseas visitors attended the festival and some even extended their stays. Kiwis from the provinces have come too, but best of all, locals flocked and have raved to their friends and rellies about what a good festival we have.

Culturally, Auckland has come of age. This has taken a while so let's break out the champagne.

It is better to have a biannual festival and do it well than a yearly festival which may be second rate. If we have it annually, it also clashes with Womad and other festivals. There will be collateral damage to Wellington's well-established festival and there will be a loss of good will.

Two other events which were successful and funded reasonably well under the Auckland City Council but have become unintended victims of the supercity are the Films in Parks and Music in Parks. Both have had their budgets slashed and are now poor imitations of what they once were. Hopefully they will be re-established and promoted. These are good examples of what happens when you try to do something without it being resourced.

The Auckland festival is too important to Auckland to suffer the ignominy and fate of these other events

Monday, March 18, 2013

Music In Parks Programme


This is a copy of my submission presented this morning to the Waitemata Ward.
 
For the record, it is worth noting that Music In Parks was established under the time when Les Mills was the Mayor of Auckland. Living beside Coyle Park, he had an appreciation of how music events were enjoyed by all classes of Auckland society and also of the need to provide activities and concerts for younger people. He was also aware that these concerts attracted visitors to Auckland. They were also championed by the former Western Bays Board of the old Auckland City. The history of Music In Parks has been chequered with two successive Banks councils, who put real cuts in the programmes and great expansions through the Fletcher and Hubbard mayoralties.
Chris Fletcher gave the programme a real shot in the arm. Les Mills’ involvement was the acorn that seeded it all
Events like Music In Parks are a part of the social capital of any community. In fact, a very large part and make a significant contribution to Auckland City. They reinforce the value of local musical culture, and they provide opportunities for emerging local talent. Over the years we have enjoyed a wide and inclusive range of music such as opera and local military bands, including the former territorial bands. Other acts included blues and rock bands and classical orchestras, involving musicians from the different ethnic communities of Auckland. These concerts also showcase their talent and promote their culture, and work for Auckland in many different ways.
Regrettably, since the summer season of 2007, Music In Parks has been akin to a death of a thousand cuts. The New Zealand Herald published a letter from me on the 1st of November 2007, in which I wrote; “Auckland City’s new summer programme appears to be thinner than in the past, judged by the flyer that residents received last weekend. However, the good news is to wait for a new calendar in January for February to March.
Why two calendars? Last year the city council managed one brochure for the whole summer from November to March, it would be a penny-pinching, short-sighted decision to thin out or reduce the quality of last year’s programme. Citizens enjoyed and supported these concerts though the city. Visitors enjoyed them, too. With these events we share some of the best of what our city has to offer. They are family-friendly, and that is why they enjoy such appeal.
International cities of class have such festivals. If Auckland is to be such a city, such a programme is essential.”

Through the Hubbard years the programme was stabilised. It wasn’t until 2010 that the programme was again sliced and diced, where they took out of the programme events from Grey Lynn, Mt Eden, Ponsonby and the inner city. New Zealand herald published a letter of mine on Thursday 21st January 2010; “With excitement I picked up my Music In Parks programme. The programme has been sliced and diced like Julianne vegetables.
They proclaim Music In Parks has become an institution in the Auckland summer calendar, proclaiming there are few better ways to get amongst summer in the city.
I agree there is no better way to take in the music and cultural diversity that makes Auckland musically New Zealand’s greatest city.
It is important not only to Aucklanders but also to visitors to our city. The high spending visitors known as the interactive tourist who we seek to attract are also regular attendees. They are impressed with the quality of our talent and like to share this experience with locals
By chopping the number of events the council is not serving the interests of Auckland. At least they have put events on in the Southern and Western boundaries of the city and also on Great Barrier Island.
However Mt Eden, Grey Lynn and Ponsonby are sold short.
We only have movies. They can’t even programme the movies right. One would have thought that ‘Sione’s Wedding’, which was filmed in Grey Lynn, would be on in Grey Lynn Park. Not Owairaka.”

We saw the season out but again in January 2011 I wrote to Councillor Mike Lee the following letter; “This programme was distributed at the Music In Parks event in the domain today. It is expanded from previous years at the expense of Music In Parks.
 Attractive as this programme may be is it is very Middle Class and family friendly. All this is good stuff but one size does not fit all and besides, not all families want their kids out late.
However for the young people who live in the city and within our ward, what  is there for them?
In the domain today there were more 500 people representing all classes and racial groupings. There were also families and dogs and some of our new citizens.

Speaking with a few folk, their consensus is that these programmes are more about budgets than people. Also they note that it is hard to find these programmes. I hope it is not the case that the council is to reduce the festival to a small number of events. Previously these programmes were delivered to your letterbox, and distributed in cafes and libraries in places where people met.
There is a real concern because what has happened to Music In Parks. Will this same also occur for the annual Heritage Festival?
 Councillor, any information that you can provide on these matters would be well appreciated by people throughout our city.
If they polled in our ward for Music In Parks or for free swimming pools I know how the vote would go.
I enclose a copy of the Movie in the Parks programme for your information.”

In this letter to Councillor Lee, I pointed out that some of the budget had been sliced from Music In Parks for Movies In Parks. I did not oppose Movies In Parks in principle, and saw that they would have a significant interest and benefits for families with children, but I felt there was nothing in the programme for young people, who had previously enjoyed concerts in Meyers Park, Grey Lynn Park, Tole Park, the Domain and Mt Eden. We note the skateboard park is well utilised but we fail to provide public entertainment to this day for those in their late teens or early twenties, who are also entitled to have their needs and interests catered for.
In a city such as Auckland that is aspirational to be a modern 21st century city, the way we can cater for all sections of our society and ethnicities is an expanded Music In Parks programme. Music In Parks proclaims that we are based in a deep culture. This many cultures that make up the modern Auckland are represented in local music. It may be folk, classical or contemporary. Music In Parks provide the most accessible place to learn, for personal development and enjoyment. This is not a new thinking.
In some communities they have long established musical events and provide economic returns to that community. The finest venues are out doors. The coliseum of Rome and Verona are fine examples which have lasted since Roman times. In the latter we have seen an act of opera, the rest was rained out.
A number of folk pushed for a Music In Parks programme more than twenty years ago. As it built over time and developed into one of the cultural showcases of Auckland many of us felt its place was secure.
Through the long years of the Americas Cup residency it was not only valued by locals but by real numbers of visitors. These people are the interactive tourists that New Zealand and all countries chase. They were impressed by the quality of the music, the diversity, but also by the surroundings. It proclaimed that were a culturally diverse and rich community, accessible to not only citizens but visitors too. It also stated that Auckland is not a cultural desert.
At the Great Ponsonby Arthotel (www.greatpons.co.nz), we host a number of foreign media bought in by the visiting media programme of Tourism New Zealand (TNZ). We also host a number of leading Travel Agents bought to New Zealand by TNZ or inbound agents.
Over the years, many of these people have attended Music In Parks. In offshore marketing visits we include the programmes of the previous year’s Music In Parks and Movies In Parks in our marketing documents.
We also include in these packages Link Bus maps, Heritage Walks guides and art walk guides
These are all appreciated and are now included in many of the packages that agents sell Auckland with, and have been referred to in guide books and international magazines.
Those who have attended the events have also become ambassadors for Auckland.
Post the Pride Parade we hosted a journalist from Parisian Magazine, a weekly publication with a print run of 400,000. She would have been another ambassador for Auckland’s Music In Parks if there had been something in the city.

Music In Parks is cheap to organise and provides benefits to all. It allows all, regardless of income, to enjoy some of the cultural capital of our community.
Regrettably the decision to reduce the number of events in Auckland city is a mistake. The break of having regular concerts throughout the summer in the domain has damaged the work of twenty years.

When people believe that something is part of the social fabric and suddenly the fabric is torn, they are lost. They may be challenged or just confused.
It is like a service breakdown; it takes time to rebuild trust and get all back on track. I would like to think this would be a priority of the Waitemata Board to re-establish this trust and rebuild what is among Auckland’s finest cultural jewels.
Therefore I propose that consideration is given and a budget to market a more extensive Music In Parks programme for the 2013/14 year.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Auckland Council should support the Brisbane plan on Heritage Building Protection

This letter was published in the New Zealand Herald, Saturday March 2, 2013

Auckland Council should support the Brisbane plan on Heritage Building Protection. If the Unitary Plan is a lesser document and fails to allow public notification of intention to demolish or remove heritage buildings, then this plan will be condemned by future generations. 

Wellington City is promoting a plan to keep their heritage buildings.
Councils throughout New Zealand are engaging with central government over the inflated insurance costs that are affecting the retention of these buildings. 

Heritage buildings are a major part of our tourism crown.  Communities know their economic value and if they disappear, how difficult it is to replace this tourism income?  Tourists do not spend much on Broadway but they shop in the Newmarket heritage precinct. They do not visit Takapuna but they hang out on Ponsonby, the coffee is good but the buildings are why Ponsonby works.

Streetscape and lighting will add to the visitor experience. Cheap and cheerful buildings diminish the return and affect employment not only guides but retail and service jobs too.
In a minute an announcement can wipe out a thousand jobs.  How long does it take to create a thousand jobs?
Failure to implement the Brisbane plan will adversely affect employment too.