Thursday, 02 March 2017 09:00

Bay of Plenty community begins work on Arts & Culture Strategy

A group of arts sector locals who want to turn the Bay of Plenty into a hub for creativity and innovation, in turn boosting tourism and the economy, have started work towards a strategy for the region.

Last year Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council agreed to fund the development of a robust Arts & Culture Strategy for the region. The strategy will provide a clear framework and priorities for council partnerships with the creative sector, and other funding partners, in all arts and culture-related decisions.

Driven by a desire to see the Bay of Plenty become a magnet for innovation, whose residents experience the arts in a positive way every day, a group of local creative, business and iwi representatives are working to engage with the sector to create a draft plan to guide all arts and culture events and initiatives in the region.

The process is being facilitated by Creative Bay of Plenty (on behalf of the sector) and Dawn Hutchesson, a national creative sector specialist. It is focused on providing tangible, quality outcomes for the community and will also produce a full implementation plan.

“Arts and Culture strategies which have a partnership approach are proven to strengthen local economies, build engaged communities and encourage innovation,” Dawn says.

“Many cities have had great success with creative strategies, from London to Brisbane to Auckland. For example, Dunedin has seen great growth in its creative sector since the introduction of a similar strategy in 2015. Given the similar population and already growing arts and cultural sectors, Bay of Plenty is ripe to make the most of a strategy such as this one.”

The strategy, which focuses on the short to medium term (three years), is completely community-driven in its development and will not only help the two local councils and other funding partners prioritise arts projects to ensure logical, sustained growth within the sector, but will help create more vibrancy in the region. It will also provide clarity around the contribution of arts and culture to the local economy and tourism.

“There’s no point in having an outsider, like me, come in and tell your community what to do. I’m here to guide the process, but the strategy itself is being entirely driven by the local community - from those within the creative sector and iwi groups initially and later the wider community as a whole,” Dawn says.

She says clarity around the process is incredibly important to those developing it, so communication with the community will be a big part of how the strategy takes shape.

“We don’t want any surprises - this is your strategy, so we want the community to take ownership of it. It’s about your aspirations for arts and culture in your home. We’re just driving the conversation between the sector, community and the two councils about the role and value of the arts in the Bay of Plenty and what role our local government plays in catering to these groups,” Dawn says.

All residents will get to have their say on the strategy from May this year, before it goes to the councils for adoption in October/November. It is anticipated the strategy will become part of the 2018 Long Term Plan process for both TCC and WBOPDC.