Axing the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is "unthinkable," Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson said today after speculation it was on the chopping block.
The Culture and Heritage Ministry today released a new discussion paper looking at the future of orchestras in New Zealand, amid concerns that falling ticket sales and rising Government funding were making the sector unsustainable.
New Zealand has four regional orchestras, in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Southland, as well as the national touring orchestra.
The paper reviewed growing concerns about falling audience numbers for orchestral performances, which have dropped from 645,746 in 2007 to 434,811 in 2010.
But Finlayson said disestablishing the NZSO was not on table.
"The NZSO is a jewel in the cultural crown," Finlayson said. "There is no question of its survival under this government."
The paper said the industry needed to change the way it worked in order to save money and be more efficient, with the sharing of players and headline performers mooted as one way to share services.
''If orchestras were to work as an integrated system it could improve the sector's overall viability and productivity, but would require players to work flexibly in a variety of settings, sometimes at relatively short notice. It would also require the orchestras to plan together on a two or three-year horizon and share the costs of players moving around more.''
The Ministry is now calling for public submissions on the review, including four ''change options'' being suggested for a new management structure.
This includes an option to disestablish the NZSO, while maintaining city-based orchestras, at least one of which would be to an international standard.
But Finlayson said the option for the NZSO was actually whether to disestablish it as a Crown Entity and turn it into a non-governmental organisation.
"This question relates to governance, and is separate from the
matter of continued government support," he said.
Other options include creating one company to manage all the orchestras, replacing individual boards with all funding from the Ministry; the Ministry and Creative New Zealand retain their funding roles, but appoint a ''funding assessment panel''; and Creative New Zealand becomes the sole funder, but with an industry body to help assign funding.
Submissions can be made until August 20.