Our arts community, like many other local businesses and organisations, is extremely vulnerable to the environment that COVID-19 has created. However, out of all this difficulty has come an opportunity, writes Councillor Pete Rainey in the latest Councillor's Comment.

COVID-19 has affected many businesses and organisations in Nelson. Some have been able to withstand the pressure, but others, unfortunately, have had to close.

Recent headlines have shown our arts community is also extremely vulnerable to the environment that COVID-19 has created. Even though many galleries and venues have adapted to the COVID restrictions, they still find the alert levels challenging.

Similarly, the event scene has been hugely affected, and the recent cancellation of the majority of the Nelson Arts festival's programme, including the beloved Mask Parade, is a big blow for the arts in Nelson, as well as the hospitality sector.

However, out of all this difficulty has come an opportunity. Council has been granted $30,000 by Creative New Zealand to create a new Arts Strategy for Nelson. This funding was sourced from the Local Government Arts Fund which assists councils to support projects that enhance the resilience, sustainability, and recovery of local arts organisations affected by COVID-19.

The revised Arts Strategy will guide the community in how it supports and encourages the arts in Nelson, and help the Council prioritise its existing funding streams. It will focus on the importance of the sector as a key driver of economic, social and cultural wellbeing.

The strategy will consider the impact of COVID on the artists and arts organisations that are the creative heart of Nelson, and what the sector can do to navigate these uncertain times. It will look ahead at least 10 years.

It is Council’s intention is to identify ways to enhance the sustainability of the sector and facilitate a more coordinated approach to deliver arts. The strategy will draw on direction from the Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy, which highlights the importance of the arts and creative sector, and build upon it further.

Council is seeking consultants to lead this work, and hopes to have public engagement early in 2022. Consultation and development should be completed by end of June next year, with Council to consider the draft in the second half of 2022.

While the Arts Strategy is being commissioned and supported by Nelson City Council, its findings will have relevance and value for the wider region.

Some of the findings and options that are identified may well be picked up by others across Te Tauihu as part of the implementation of the Intergenerational Strategy and the Project Kōkiri Nelson Tasman Regeneration Plan.

I encourage you, whether a supporter of the arts or not, to take the opportunity to engage with the process early next year.