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Change in the air at Film NZ

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and Investment New Zealand (INZ) are pulling out of some of their direct involvement with the film industry by devolving some of their current functions to industry organisations.

An INZ source said that under a new strategic development, most screen and content-related activity previously delivered by INZ was being consolidated within Film New Zealand.

Government funding to Film New Zealand is likely to be increased, by an as yet unspecified amount, as part of the deal which is expected to devolve most of INZ’s responsibilities to Film NZ. This comes on the back of an increase in Film NZ funding for the 2008 financial year of over $170,000, which took the government’s contribution to $750,000.

No public announcement of the change has yet been made. Judith McCann, CEO of Film NZ, was unable to comment on the situation as some of the detail is still being finalised.

Despite the lack of an announcement, the changes are already under way. As part of the implementation four jobs at INZ have, in government-speak, been “disestablished” as of 14 August.

Amongst those we understand have lost their jobs was Auckland-based Paul Voigt, a former board member of Film NZ and Senior Investment Manager, Screen Production at INZ for the last nine years. Donald Lawrie and two overseas-based staff are believed to be the other departees.

The preference within the film industry to have industry professionals running organisations such as Film NZ and the Film Commission is well-known. Recently, disappointment was expressed within the industry when the Minister for Culture and Heritage, the Hon. Christopher Finlayson, announced the appointments of three new NZFC board members with limited experience of the industry.

Although the exact nature of the changes is not yet clear, industry sources broadly welcomed the shift in responsibilities as a logical development. A well-informed source said that within the industry it had been felt for some time that it was an uncomfortable fit to have public servants promoting film business when an existing and capable organisation had been established for that purpose.

NZTE was unable to comment before deadline.