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Budget cuts an act of ‘cultural vandalism’

22 May, 2023

Interview by Nicholas Lindstrom, adapted by Ashley-Rose Redstone

Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation, Professor Peter O’Connor, warns that despite Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown pulling back on budget cuts, arts and culture in Tāmaki Makaurau are still at risk. Photo: Canva. 

Listen to the full interview

After significant public opposition to the Auckland Council's 2023/24 budget, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has backtracked on sweeping cuts to arts and culture.

Brown's budget proposal would have severely reduced funding for public services like the Citizens Advice Bureau, homelessness initiatives, and libraries. 

Brown stated that he has listened to public feedback and would make changes to the final budget, including “significant softening of the proposed funding cuts to regional services that Aucklanders value.” 

Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation, Professor Peter O’Connor, told Nicholas Lindstrom on 95bFM’s The Wire that the draft budget was an act of “cultural vandalism” that would have disastrous effects on local communities.

O’Connor argued that small amounts of funding support programmes that communities rely on. 

He said recent challenges such as severe weather events, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cost of living crisis further highlighted the need for the arts across Tāmaki Makaurau.

“Pulling back on those things which give joy and light to communities felt to many people like a kick in the guts.”

Brown has stated that reducing spending is "crucial to balancing the budget" and indicated that some of the proposed cuts will still remain. 

However, O’Connor said that the council must prioritise investing in people, as it is important for social health. 

"People are struggling. The last thing you need to do as a council as a mayor is to kick them one more time.”

“All the mayor has said is that he is softening the cuts, the cuts are still coming.”