Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40 Number 2. Feb 7 1977
NZSAC ~ Who Holds The Purse-Strings?
NZSAC ~ Who Holds The Purse-Strings?
Arts Council has recently generated considerable discussion within NZUSA, particularly in regard to control of its expenditure, yet little of this has filtered down to that mystical entity, the grass-roots student. In fact the majority of students are no doubt unaware of the existence of Arts Council. In this article therefore I intend to outline its origins, and the present debate on its future.
Arts Council is at present a standing committee of NZUSA. This means that politically and financially it is directly responsible to NZUSA and also means that NZUSA has to pay the bill of ARts Council makes a loss. When it began in the 50s, it was Nz Universities Arts Council, but in the 70s it grew into NZ Students Arts Council, by adding to its membership other tertiary institutes, such as teachers colleges. This of course considerably complicated things, because it was still a standing committee of NZUSA, but had members who did not belong to NZUSA.
Initially its main job was co-ordinating Arts Festivals, but when Bruce Kirland was appointed full-time director in 1972, Arts Council moved into the business of promoting big tours. In 1974 there were a considerable number — mainly 'cultural' such as the Aborigine Dance Group and Amamus Theatre — and unfortunately most of these made a loss so that the end of the 1974 Financial year saw Arts Council $18,000 in the red. This can be put down to a number of factors, the main one perhaps being their lack of experience in promoting tours of this kind.
Theoretically this loss should have been carried by NZUSA. But due to some marvellous magical feat NZUSA talked plus other constituents of Arts Council (ie NZUSA plus other tertiary institutions) into each paying a share of the bill. Victoria is still paying off its bit.
Seeing bigger and brighter things on the horizon, in '75 arts Council started to promote rock tours (in exactly the same way as people such as Stewart MacPherson) and by 76 was almost exclusively involved in these. This had a number of ramifications, particularly for the small campuses. Because of economic, considerations big name tours could only be sent to the main centres; Flo and Eddie for example went just to Auckland and Wellington. Thus the smaller places were justified in thinking they were getting a raw deal from Students Arts Council (to which each constituent pays a annual levy of 45c per student).
Therefore the August 76 SGM of S.A.C. moved that "NZSAC become a student-orientated body concentrating on inter campus and inter and intra regional activities with the central office playing a liaising and co-ordinating role". Alongside of this it proposed the establishemnt of a Promotions Company (to handle big tours) which would be a subsidiary of Student Services Holdings (this is NZUSA's financial arm). The idea was endorsed by NZUSA'S August Council.
One advantage of the Promotions Company over SAC was that the Company would have been a financial entity with a small board of directors responsible for keeping a tight rein on the budget'.
Not long after this decision was made S.S.H. informed NZUSA that Arst Council was running at $15,000 cash defecit (ie bills not collected) and was thus causing a drain on NZUSAs cash flow. (As a standing committee of NZUSA its income and expenditure went through the same cash flow as NZUSA). This caused organizational problems for NZUSA for it had no control over this money which was creating irregular drains on its cash resources. Therefore S.S.H. suggested that the rest of Arts Council funds ($10,000) be converted into the initial capital for a promotions company. This money would get it off the ground and enable it to establish contacts ready for operating from the beginning of the 1977 financial year. This of course would have meant that Arts Council would not have operated from then (Sept 76) until March 77.
NZUSA August Council 75 had passed a motion making this possible, but the NZUSA National Executive meeting in Sept 76 (meeting of presidents of constituent universities plus NZUSA elected and appointed officers) rejected the idea. It threw out the promotions company mainly because it was felt this wasn't few on the non-university members of Arts Council - and postponed the decision on the curtailment of arts council activities until after the Arts Council AGM in November.
This AGM confirmed that in the future Arts Council would take a low profile (no big tours) and make Arts Festival its main activity for 1977.
At the same meeting Bruce Kirkland announced his resignation as from the end of the 1976 financial year. The executive meeting of Arts Council Executive meeting the day before had discovered that Bruce Kirkland was running the 1977 Split Enz tour as a private effort, and this information was conveyed to NZUSA.
This was to be the centre of controversy for the next few months. Bruce's involvement in the Split Enz tour as a private venture was felt to be inpricipled, because he was using the facilities (NZUS A office) and the contacts he had made working for NZUSA. This was not a matter of his having two jobs at once, but rather using his position in Arts Council to privately operate in the same field as Arts Council. It was also important because in promoting Split Enz he was negotiating with the Australian promoters Evans-Gudusiki who had an unpayed bill to Arts Council to the tune of $86,500. (The NZSAC cash defecit was $23,000 by this time).
A motion of censure at NZUSA National Executive meeting against Bruce was narrowly defected, but Gyles Beckford had second thoughts (no pun intended) and had a postal ballot on a motion asking Bruce to stop managing the Split Enz tour or resign immediately. This was narrowly passed but the next day Auckland Students Assn. called for an SGM to discuss the question so no action was taken until the SGM which in fact overruled the posted ballot decision.
So we were back where we started. But the real basis of these machinations, both over the question of Bruce Kirkland and of forming a promotions company was disastisfaction felt at the nature of SAC and particularly NZUSA's control over it. It was felt the non-university constituents should be much more involved.
Thus, and hopefully this is the part of the story where everybody lives happily ever after, the Jan 1977 meeting of the ARts Council Executive resolved to move towards separate incorporation of NZSAC. If this happens it would no longer be a standing committee of NZUSA but a separate body with separate financial organization which all the constituents, universities, teachers colleges and technical ustitutes would have equal say.
- Gerard Couper