Monday, December 12, 2022

Point of Order: Lights, cameras, action.....

......and Stuart Nash gets to co-star with fellow ministers by bankrolling movie-makers

It was the equivalent of a double feature produced (with our money) by the munificent Stuart Nash, Minister of Economic and Regional Development.

First, on Friday, he announced the Government’s approval of 
  • a $2 million loan from the Queenstown Economic Transformation and Resilience Fund to enable an outfit called Target 3D Ltd to upscale the Queenstown Digital Studio; and
  • a loan of up to $1.25 million for Queenstown-based Loaded Reports Ltd.
But wait. There’s lots more where that came from – and later in the day Nash (this time with other ministers clamouring to share the limelight) reminded us the government has invested $30 million through the Infrastructure Reference Group in upgrades to the Auckland Film Studio

The occasion was the completion of the upgrades which (the ministers insisted) will provide an economic boost for Auckland and the country as a whole.

The project was also funded by Auckland Council.

This was not the first mention of the $30 million investment. In August last year the Government issued a statement headed –

Auckland Film Studios in West Auckland has received funding for a major expansion through the Government’s Infrastructure Reference Group’s (IRG) COVID-19 Response Fund.

The Government is investing $30 million of a total $35 million project to construct two 2,000sqm sound stages and development of further workshops and offices, to expand capacity at the Auckland Council-owned studios in Henderson.

On that occasion the announcement was issued in the names of Stuart Nash and Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development and Employment.

Nash said then:

“New Zealand has established a strong reputation as a screen production destination, with world-class sound-stages, post-production facilities, talented cast and crew, and magnificent scenery. The sector supports many local jobs and businesses.”

The reputation might be strong, but not the film industry’s cash flow, apparently.

Grant Robertson has added his voice to the latest press statement on the government’s munificence for movie-makers.

“The investment has been transformational for Auckland Film Studios, and for our ability to host the large productions New Zealand is becoming renowned for,” Grant Robertson said.

“Screen production is a powerful driver of economic growth and employment. This new development will help New Zealand capitalise on the international demand for our hugely talented screen industry that has driven numerous recent successes like The Power of the Dog and Avatar.”

The development more than doubles the stage space at the studio enabling it to more easily accommodate multiple smaller productions.

Carmel Sepuloni said:

“The revamped and expanded Auckland Film Studios will provide more creative opportunities for New Zealanders in the film and television industries. This will support growth of the sector – particularly creative tech and places where those businesses can collaborate, innovate, educate, and grow.”

And Stuart Nash said:

“New Zealand already has a reputation as a screen production destination, with world-class sound-stages, post-production facilities, talented cast and crew, and magnificent scenery.

“The newly expanded studio will add to that and is a real asset that is predicted to generate more than 300 new screen jobs, and many within the local community.”

Much the same reasoning was applied the ministerial statement from Nash about the Queenstown loans:

“This will provide access for filmmakers, game designers and television producers to the latest technology. It also aims to encourage screen production companies to remain in the district for longer periods, therefore increasing district and regional spend,” said Stuart Nash.

Regional spread?

How far should this thinking be extended?

Let’s suggest film industry opportunities requiring public investment in film studios in the Chatham Islands…!

The news that the government has put $30 million into Auckland Film Studio upgrades via the Infrastructure Reference Group, and that Auckland Council also threw in some money, did not go down well with New Zealand Initiative economist Eric Crampton.

He laments:

Make you weep. They’d have done better by burning the money. Zero joke.

Crampton explains:

Every dollar spent on that, given the state of the labour market, has pulled a construction worker away from more valuable tasks. How do we know the other tasks are more valuable? They didn’t need to be subsidised.

It’s not just a waste of money, it’s a destruction of real resources relative to what could have been done instead.

Worse, the infrastructure goes to support an industry that only exists at current scale by virtue of gigantic government subsidies to international film production.

Had the government burned the money instead, it might have at least reduced inflation by a tiny amount.

While Robertson, Sepuloni and Nash were burning money – sorry, investing in the creation of employment opportunities – their colleagues were –

New Zealand will impose travel bans on members of the Iranian security forces connected to the death of 22-year old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini and the violent response to subsequent protests.

This is a step up from a statement on October 31, when Mahuta announced New Zealand was suspending its bilateral Human Rights Dialogue with Iran:

“This decision sends a strong signal that bilateral approaches on human rights are no longer tenable with Iran, when they are denying basic human rights and violently suppressing protests of those who stand up to them,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

People in north Auckland will soon have more ways to get around as Transport Minister Michael Wood kicked off construction for O Mahurangi – Penlink today.

Wood was drawing attention to his government’s commitment to infrastructure investment

“Today marks $3 billion worth of projects in pre-construction works as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP), with even more major projects set to get underway next year.

“We are investing in the future of Aotearoa with ten projects, spanning from the Far North to Otago, already complete and providing better transport for growing communities.

Nothing further south than Otago?

What’s wrong with Southland?

Faster travel times and a more reliable bus service is coming to more of Auckland’s eastern suburbs, with the Government confirming investment in the next phases of the Eastern Busway.

The Government is upgrading New Zealand’s transport system to make it safer, greener, and more efficient, Wood said.

The Government is investing an additional $200 million into the project, reallocated from the Northern Pathway, to support Auckland Transport in the delivery of the busway.

This brings the total Crown contribution to the Eastern Busway project to over $600 million.

We are here today as a partnership between our Government, the China Council and the New Zealand China Trade Association to mark the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between our two countries.

This was a speech from the PM.

There was no mention of human rights.

The PM did say New Zealand’s relationship with China is complex and is evolving.

Of course, along with our long history of engagement and cooperation, we continue to recognise that there are areas where China and New Zealand do not agree. Where our interests or world view differ.

On those areas we are willing to engage – but we will also always advocate for New Zealand’s interests and values, and speak out when we need to. We do this predictably, consistently and respectfully.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Gabrielle Rush as High Commissioner to Singapore.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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