01 Feb 2022

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Government announces COVID 19 Omicron Relief Funding

Today, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni announced that the Government is delivering a $121 million funding boost to support the cultural sector through this latest phase of the pandemic.

Designed to cushion the blow from Omicron, the $121 million will support artists and arts practitioners (who are usually sole traders/self-employed individuals), arts organisations, the screen sector, as well as support for performances and events that were planned before the move to Red.  

Stephen Wainwright, Creative New Zealand Chief Executive says, “We’re delighted by the third phase of the Government’s COVID-19 emergency response for the arts and culture sector. It will assist in meeting the real needs of an industry and a workforce whose prospects have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and the Red setting – both of which limits human congregation, the lifeblood of much of the arts.

We congratulate the Minister and the Government for moving so quickly in the face of the Omicron outbreak.”

This funding complements existing Creative New Zealand programme opportunities, which are continuing as planned. Round 4 of Arts Grants, which offers project funding for a broad range of arts activities, including artist development, opened on Tuesday 1 February.

The COVID-19 Omicron Relief Funding will be led and delivered by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. For more information visit their website

Government delivers further support for arts and culture sector

  • The Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme will be boosted by $70 million, enabling the coverage of the Scheme to be extended right through to 31 January 2023 for events that were planned before the move to Red. Key eligibility criteria have also been extended.  
  • The Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund has been provided an additional $35.5 million to fund more direct support for individuals and organisations
  • The limit on funding for individual organisations has been increased from $100,000 to $300,000.
  • A one-off grant of $5,000 will be available to eligible self-employed individuals/sole traders in the arts and cultural sector who have lost income or opportunities to work.
  • The Screen Production Recovery Fund has been boosted by a further $15 million.

Following the Government’s shift to the Red traffic light setting and ongoing pressures on the arts and culture sector, the Government is moving swiftly to cushion the blow, providing further support for the sector, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

“The Government has been actively engaging with the arts and culture sector to understand their needs as the pandemic has progressed, and we’re responding by delivering much-needed financial relief,” Carmel Sepuloni said. “The arts and culture sector contributes approximately $10.9 billion to the New Zealand economy, making up about 3.4% of GDP.

“Our strategy continues to be to slow the spread of Omicron down. New Zealanders have helped put us in a position to fight Omicron, but as we’ve said before, when COVID changes, we change. 

“The Red traffic light setting, whilst needed to protect the health and safety of New Zealanders, has had an impact on the livelihoods of those who make a living out of arts and culture. That’s why we’re committing to a one-off $5,000 grant for self-employed individuals/sole-traders who can show proof of a loss of income or opportunity to work.

“We’re also extending the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme, the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund, and the Screen Production Recovery Fund.

The Arts and Cultural Event Support Scheme will receive a financial boost, extending coverage to events scheduled to take place before 31 January 2023, that were planned before the move to Red. This also includes extension of criteria to cover cancellations due to a lead performer getting Covid or needing to isolate.

“It’s important to reassure artists and crew that they will get paid despite their event being cancelled due to Red. The Scheme includes an obligation to make full payment, as if the event had gone ahead, to artists, performers and production crew and/or organisations.”

The Government are also making it easier for people to apply for the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund and increasing financial support available for organisations by making changes to payment limits and the eligibility criteria. This will include setting up an application stream dedicated to self-employed people and sole-traders, in addition to the application stream for organisations.

“Internationally, Omicron is having a significant impact on the film industry, with cast/crew sickness in some cases causing productions to shut down, resulting in higher costs. Aotearoa New Zealand’s screen industry will not be immune from these pressures, so we are acting now to provide extra support for this key sector of our economy.

“The Screen Production Fund will receive a boost to enable an extension of the fund through to 31 December 2022, to maximise production activity and minimise the impacts of any COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I’m confident that our move to extend critical support schemes for New Zealand’s arts and cultural event sector will provide some relief and help our wonderful creative communities to get back on their feet.

“I want to acknowledge the huge financial and emotional strain and uncertainty that everyone in the sector is facing, but I want to underline our Government’s commitment to supporting the revival of the arts and culture sector,” Carmel Sepuloni said.


  • Practitioners are encouraged to view the information available on Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s website, and for further guidance please email support.culture@mch.govt.nz to ensure they can receive the support on offer.
  • The Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme is already operational and payments are being made to events that have cancelled due to the recent move to ‘Red’. Events that will be newly eligible for the scheme as a result of the extension will be able to register within a week.
  • The government is working at pace to extend the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund to sole traders and individuals. The next steps are to engage quickly with sector representatives to finalise the scheme details, and then design and test the application and payment management system needed to process the applications. We expect to provide detailed information to potential applicants next week, and then open the Fund in three weeks' time.