You can't beat COVID with Māori Pokemon
The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is challenging the value of large arts grants handed out under the Ministry for Culture and Heritage's new $60 million COVID-19 "Innovation Fund".
So far, thirty two projects have received $6.2 million from the fund. The questionable taxpayer funded projects include:
• $585,000 to develop a te Reo Māori virtual reality game.
• $20,000 on "a digital storytelling platform using the vaka as medium for navigating and exploring Tokelauan heritage"
• $2,110,000 for live music venues to increase diversity.
• $290,000 to "an online game for rangatahi that imagines a Māori future".
• $500,000 on a tool to give readers book recommendations that reflect gender diversity.
• $328,405 to develop a Pokemon Go-style augmented reality game based on Te Ao Māori.
• $1,323,000 on two productions of Māori performing arts.
It is hard to see how a Māori ripoff of Pokemon Go could be considered a COVID-19 response. Especially when our health system is currently crying out for more nurses and ICU beds.
We've criticised arts grants in the past, but these particular handouts are even more shocking for their sheer size. $1.3 million for two performance art productions does not represent good value for taxpayer money. In fact, that's more tax than an average worker would pay in their lifetime. It would be far fairer to split this money between all artists as a tax credit – or just return it to the taxpayer for that matter.
The most incredible thing is that so far barely a tenth of the total fund has been allocated. If these are the projects first off the rank, that doesn't bode well for the remaining rounds of handouts.
This funding is an absolute lottery. We understand that even many artists are questioning handouts made under this fund based on the incredible size of certain grants, and the lack of apparent logic behind the selection of recipients.
Below is a longer list of project descriptions from successful grant applicants.
To develop 'Atuatanga', an interactive virtual reality gaming experience that will use te Reo Māori and mātauranga Māori to engage players through challenges as they navigate through an ancient world restoring the taiao for future generations.
To support the development of Narrative Muse, a digital platform to help Aotearoa audiences access books, movies and television content that reflects intersectionality and gender diversity.
To scope the development and prototyping of a digital storytelling platform using the vaka as medium for navigating and exploring Tokelauan heritage. This will enable and improve Tokelauan and Pasifika access and participation in art, culture and heritage.
TPW - Māori Pokemon
To develop creative assets for an augmented reality app called Pūrākau. The app embeds Te Ao Māori content into the environment around us using mixed reality technology. The project is delivered via smart phone devices to enable accessibility to a wide audience.
Taki Rua Productions
The development and delivery of two immersive live productions of large-scale contemporary Māori performing arts pieces. By presenting mātauranga Māori within contemporary performances the project will increase access and participation to both mātauranga and contemporary performance art.
To design a suite of tools that helps arts and culture organisations to measure, understand, increase and articulate their wellbeing impact in order to unlock the value of culture and their assets. The development of these tools is aimed at increasing the capacity to generate wellbeing for communities, helping improve access and participation.
Public Art Heritage Aotearoa NZ
To develop a website of Aotearoa’s remaining twentieth century public art heritage, which will enable New Zealanders to access and build awareness of our public art heritage. Funding will also support the development of a national public art forum to develop best-practice guidance and resources for those involved in public art.
To develop a new values-driven ticketing platform, empowering audiences to choose their own ticket price, thereby increasing access and participation in the cultural sector.
To develop Guardian Maia, an online game for rangatahi that imagines a Māori future and uses culturally inclusive creative technology to explore mātauranga Māori traditions and new cultural concepts.
Aotearoa Live Music Recovery Project
To support small to medium sized live music venues with artist and audience development that increases diversity. The project will increase access and participation in live music.
To develop a platform to enable artists, arts venues, arts organisations and cultural institutions to create their own hybrid and virtual events, allowing them to reach new audiences and drive new revenue streams for their work.
Joel Baxendale and Karin McCracken - In World
To develop a flexible and dynamic creative tool that will enable multiple sectors to apply app-technology in an interactive context, thereby creating new opportunities for the arts sector and enabling access and participation.