Janet McAllister: Feral Fluffy gets ready to pounce

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Image / Rod Emmerson

By Janet McAllister

Lost: one arts policy. Probably savage, rabid and half-starved (why else would it be kept in the dark?) Answers to the name of Fluffy. If found, please return to the National Party. They'll probably deny it's theirs but don't you believe them when they say Fluffy belongs to Act.

In the absence of transparent and democratic announcements of policy we have rumour. And rumour has it that Fluffy wants to take arts funding by the scruff of the neck and shake vigorously. Arts funding agencies - the few we have - are apparently to be merged in the name of efficiency. After the shakeup, the only survival I'd bet on is World War I centenary memorials. Military heritage is catnip for Fluffy.

Also missing in action: any explanation from National as to how we'll be able to access our screen arts and music - ie, a broadcasting policy. Myles Thomas from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting reports that MP Maggie Barry says Radio New Zealand is to unveil a business plan to start raising its own revenue, including sponsorship. The country will no longer have a news source that doesn't need to pacify advertisers. This is National's solution to the six-year budget freeze it has imposed on the station.

National has also given assurances it will not sell TVNZ. But Act wants to sell it. A little "negotiation" after the election - the Act tail supposedly wagging the National dog, but the dog snapping eagerly - and voila, TVNZ vanishes.

In contrast, both the Greens and Labour have published mutually compatible arts, culture and heritage policies. Both policies are pro-industry. Professional practitioners should be happy.

And for us punters and amateurs, the Greens in particular have a coherent and laudable vision.

Their first key principle is that "society should facilitate widespread participation in and affordable access to the arts and cultural heritage". In other words, just like sports, arts should not just be professionals performing for the wealthy, but instead be something available for all to enjoy.

To this end the Greens will fund organisations committed to arts education and reinstate an arts adviser service for schools. Labour wants to reinstate Artists in Schools, which will create student excitement, but having advisers ensures good everyday arts pedagogy. Let's do both.

I also really like the Greens' description of Maori language and culture as "the birthright of every Maori and the heritage of every Aotearoa New Zealander". The Maoritanga vehicles they mention are iwi radio and Maori Television, but we need more.

The Maori Party has won several gains already on this point, including support for Maori history teaching (Te Takanga o te Wa).

It now wants Maori histories to be compulsory curriculum, "designed and delivered jointly with mana whenua", and for te reo Maori to be compulsorily available throughout childhood education.

For adults, it supports fees-free Maori language programmes. These would all be enriching, useful initiatives. As long as Fluffy doesn't get to them first.

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