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How can Auckland better cultivate its creative industries?

Public artworks along Auckland’s waterfront include The Lighthouse (2017) by Michael Parekōwhai. Getty Images.

Creativity is the fastest growing skill in the workplace. In a world fraught with environmental, economic and social challenges, few could doubt the importance of creative solutions. So, how can Auckland best support the growth of our creative industries? One integral player will be Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), which works collaboratively with central and local government, education providers, businesses and communities to foster the success of creative industries. We sit down with its general manager of economic development Pam Ford and a local business, inMusic, which is reshaping the New Zealand music scene.

The value of a distinctive Michael Parekōwhai installation in downtown Auckland, a spirited theatre performance in Māngere, or a grungy gig in the loins of Karangahape Rd is an ode to the diversity of Auckland city. Creative industries bring joy to communities, invite freedom of expression into places and help to form the heart of a place. But they can also provide significant economic return, such as the momentous public art movement in New York during the late 1970s, which drove significant tourism and economic opportunities into the Big Apple.

Auckland enjoys its own rich enclaves of creativity. For example, south Auckland’s vibrant theatre and visual arts community, west Auckland’s developing screen and film production scene, or the growing string of design firms plotted across downtown Auckland. But there are also new, unexpected, sectors woven into the fabric of Auckland’s creative industry. 

Kumeu Film Studios is a newly converted screen production complex just 25 minutes from central Auckland.

According to ATEED, Auckland’s arm for economic development, Auckland’s screen and creative sector has grown at an average of 6.2 percent per annum over the last five years, representing one of the highest growth rates across all sectors, only outpaced by retail (6.6 percent), tourism (7.7 percent) and construction (8.5 percent).

The burgeoning screen industry has been likened to our successful national wine markets, with production/post-production revenue in Auckland increasing 62 percent since 2013 (compound annual growth rate of 10.15 percent). According to Statistics New Zealand, it is now over $1 billion.

In west Auckland, the screen industry has been built from the ground up, led by Sir Bob Harvey, the Waitakere Council and now ATEED, which has invested into a new production studio in Kumeu to help the film industry attract capital and talent into the area.

Another fledgling creative industry in Auckland is gaming. Based on overseas markets, it could be a huge driver for economic growth. In China, eSports is expected to generate $3 billion yuan (US $462 million) of revenue and attract 140 million users this year. Additionally, eSports revenue is experiencing 40 percent year-on-year growth globally, and a global viewing audience of around 385 million.

New Zealand has one of the highest numbers of game developers per capita of any country in the world. It’s also grown by 43 percent on last year, earning $143 million, according to an independent survey of New Zealand Game Developers Association studios. Auckland has proved to be a hub for gamers, home to nearly 70 percent of all gaming companies in the country.

Furthermore, other communities within the creative industries - music, performing and visual arts, publishing, digital media and design - continue to rise across Auckland and contribute significantly towards New Zealand’s GDP.

ATEED

ATEED acts as a facilitator for the creative industries in Auckland working with various governing bodies and organisations to accelerate the growth of our creative sector.

Pam Ford says, “There is no single source or plan that looks at the capacity of growth in these sectors. ATEED is quite neat because it has the ability to bring the city’s creative industries together, firstly  through engagement and secondly by providing an investment plan for people, business capability and infrastructure. So, ATEED essentially acts as the connector and facilitator, helping to cultivate our creative industries success.”

The Lighthouse by Michael Pārekowhai is located at Queens Wharf.

It has long supported organisations such as WeCreate, which is a catalyst for the growth of New Zealand creativity, to let the public know about big news affecting the sector, keep people informed about creative businesses, and to help people access the creative content they're looking for.

Ford says many creative industries spawn out of visionaries who start and grow companies, then pull others into the Petri dish. Fortunately, Auckland has and continues to enjoy such visionaries: Peter Wells and Stephanie Johnstone, who created the Auckland Writers Festival 20 years ago. It is now a huge event that attracts 80,000 people over the week. Another local creative being globally acclaimed designer Dean Poole at Alt Group, who has made his mark across Auckland city, and is rumoured to be New Zealand’s most influential designer. While, young people, like Aleisha Staples from Staples VR, are busy pioneering new digital realities using technology.

Ford says, “Everybody relates to the outputs of creative industries, whether it is a television series, a game, a piece of architecture, or fashion design, there is a personal connection to creativity.”

So, how can ATEED help nurture Auckland’s creative visionaries? According to Pam Ford, it collaborates with organisations to fund projects, events and places. For example, it’s helped fund the new south Auckland co working space Te Haa o Manukau, which has set up a digital room where people can create digital products and showcase events. Another effort sees ATEED support tertiary organisations, such as the University of Auckland, to connect students with creative offerings in the community. 

inMusic

Morgan Donoghue, Managing Director, inMusic.

One example of a thriving creative company in Auckland is global music giant, inMusic, which hopes to form a major global tech music centre in Auckland. It has built a family of 16 different musical companies, with some of the biggest global music brands in its stable, including Akai professional, Alesis, and Air Music – leaders in virtual instrument technology. Now, it’s built another branch on Karangahape Rd which could reshape New Zealand’s music scene.

Morgan Donoghue, managing director of inMusic, has toiled at an extensive music career, beginning in earnest at EMI/Virgin Records as the label and marketing manager for a decade, then for Vodafone New Zealand’s music download business (MP3s delivered to your phone and computer), where he quickly evolved to global head of music based in London.

Currently, Donoghue has his fingers across many strings, managing director at inMusic, advisor to Spice, advisor and shareholder at Nuraphone, while helping to run a charity, Roady for Roadies, which raises money for road crew that ‘fall on hard times’.

He says inMusic hopes to create jobs and help Kiwi artists take on the world. 

“Currently we have 30 staff and aim to continue to grow. We will also work with great New Zealand artists to help further their career locally and internationally.”

Its New Zealand branch is focused on developing software for its embedded hardware, the tools used by DJs and musicians.

Donoghue says, “Embedded hardware is hardware that doesn’t require a laptop, so the computer processing power is included in the hardware along with the screen. The business is focused on making the greatest user experience for our customers that are buying our embedded hardware.”

Auckland has an amazing pool of talent in the fields of musical software, according to Donoghue, who points to fellow companies in the area: Serato, Melodics, and Alognaut. A community of businesses worth “millions of dollars to the local economy”.

It’s evident that creativity doesn’t simply improve the social health of the city, but in fact, builds jobs and strengthens our economy.

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