By @ 03/31/16 in New Zealand


My six month journey around New Zealand has been an outstanding experience and I have roamed far and wide. Part way through, while on North Island, I found myself with three days to fill before a planned rendezvous with friends. I started to scrutinise my map and think about where I might go. Perhaps the Taranaki Peninsula? But that would be a long drive and well off my current route. How do I know if I drive all that way it will be worth it?

I consult my Rough Guide: “Taranaki’s vibrant provincial capital is New Plymouth. There is a strong arts bias to its attraction, home to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, which is one of the finest contemporary art galleries in the country”. Decision made!

I spend one night on route at Opunake campsite, investment $20. I filled up with petrol, investment $59, Total $79

In my tent I read that the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery has recently been extended to accommodate a large collection of works by Len Lye (an artist that I was unfamiliar with). A New Zealand born sculptor, film-maker and conceptual artist. Len Lye (1901-1980) was born in Christchurch and worked alongside other world renowned contemporary artists in Europe and New York. Just before his death a friend, patron and New Plymouth resident John Mathews helped set up the Len Lye Foundation, which brought most of Lye’s scattered work to New Plymouth.




I arrive in New Plymouth to find a shiny new contemporary building at one end of Queens Street, which is obviously in the midst of on-going regeneration. There are cafes, hotels, design shops etc and the whole area feels like it is vibrant and thriving. I have a quick look around and notice banners pronouncing that tonight is the first night of the annual Festival of Lights, so I spontaneously decide to stay the night.






I book into a Hostel, investment $68, Festival of Light Donation $5, Overall Total $152.

Suffice it to say that I loved the new contemporary extension to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and really enjoyed finding out about an artist who was totally new to me. I was excited, too, to see one of Lye’s kinetic works sited along a new 10km long Coastal Walkway – a stunning example of contemporary landscape design incorporating site-specific artworks. ‘Wind Wand’ acts as a focal point near the entrance of the new Puke Ariki – a combined tourist office, city library, exhibition space and regional museum.







I looked around the museum shop and bought postcards and stamps , investment $12.50, Overall Total $164.50 – The Hostel was a treat as I usually camp, I didn’t eat out or visit a cafe. I looked around a clothes shop and design shop but nothing grabbed me, I certainly wished I could stay longer, possibly hire a bike and cycle the coastal walkway.

In other words, my total spend in Taranaki could have been a lot more.

I have spent many years working within Urban Regeneration project teams and so I have some understanding of how creative/cultural regeneration works. What I saw in New Plymouth seemed to me to be a shining example of how the arts and culture can play a vital role, as a driver for the economy and urban regeneration. I realised that I was a Taranaki statistic, absolutely a cultural tourist in search of ‘Destination Architecture’. Not only was it my reason to visit in the first place but it was the reason I decided to stay for a while and therefore spend money in the area.

Over the last few months I have thought many times about my visit to New Plymouth. Whenever I exchange ‘New Zealand highlights’ with other travellers I find myself saying, “You must go to Taranaki, New Plymouth is amazing”. Since visiting Taranaki I have been considering the value to the economy of my personal trip and the potential trips made by people who I have recommended the place to. I have been thinking about other cities who have successfully invested in arts and culture as part of their vision / economic regeneration plans and I have reflected on other trips that I have made for the same reason.

(keen to know more I decided to drop an email to Terry Parkes, chairman ‘Art In Public Places Trust,’ established in Taranaki in 2009. Terry suggests I talk to Antony Rhodes at ‘Venture Taranaki ,’ Antony immediately replied to me with some very interesting information and statistics).

Antony Rhodes: Communications Manager | Venture Taranaki Trust

“Thanks for the email, and fantastic to hear you enjoyed your time in Taranaki and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre – we’re incredibly proud of it!

In terms of hard data, I’ve attached a 2004 economic impact assessment that was undertaken to support the business case for the Len Lye Centre as a start point. It’s somewhat dated, but found that the gallery could attract 20,000 people and $2m in additional spending (= $100 pp, I spent $164.50. The reality has exceeded the projections — between opening on 25 July (2015) and 4 January (2016), the centre attracted 73,000 visitors.

It’s challenging to split local and out of town visitors, but we have seen a considerable increase in visitor numbers to the region over the summer, and are hearing more and more stories of people choosing to come here because of the Centre or basing their visit around it. This leads into a number of less tangible impacts we have picked up — for instance:

In the last month the gallery has attracted a new curator from the Serpentine (London), and a new business development manager and her family direct from IFA in Germany. As with smaller regions the world over, population attraction is a central strategic theme, and the gallery is having a positive impact on both New Plymouth’s population and bolstering the all-important creative sector.

As you note, it has made a considerable contribution to the city’s vibrancy and regional pride which, while difficult to measure, also plays an important role in positive perceptions and population retention. Of course New Plymouth has been buzzing for years now, but the Len Lye Centre has created as spectacularly shiny catalyst for all of this activity.

There’s been a huge impact on neighbourhood regeneration — over the last few years (since the Len Lye Centre was announced) there has been upwards of $15 million (at a rough count) invested in the immediate neighbourhood — not quite the transport revolution that the Guggenheim triggered in Bilbao, though it has been a catalyst in attracting a second airline to New Plymouth. As I hope you got to experience, there has been an explosion in boutique accommodation, public art, dining options and creative retail in the neighbourhood.

There’s been huge global media interest in the Len Lye Centre which has also helped promote awareness of the region and its creativity. It has attracted targeted visits by the Financial Times, New York Times, and more, and even hosted HRH The Duchess of Cornwall on their recent visit. The stories often look beyond the centre itself, and have helped gain attention for our artists, cafes, producers, makers, architects and retailers — basically put New Plymouth’s creative community on the map.

There are also business success stories — the fabricators of the stainless steel façade, for instance, have since leveraged it to gain other contracts internationally”.

So in short, it’s ticking a lot of (largely anecdotal at this stage) boxes! “

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre: An extract from the Impact Assessment 2004

‘The Council is mindful that New Plymouth District has earned the reputation of a vibrant and thriving place with a highly consulted and engaged community, and for the way it approaches future planning. In the very recent past, New Plymouth was named the world’s most liveable city, the Coastal Walkway named the world’s best environmentally sustainable project, and the New Plymouth District received an international award for community sustainability. We are also regarded as the “best place in New Zealand to live, love, work and raise a family’.

‘Construction of the Len Lye Centre as an integral part of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery will place New Plymouth at the heart of the world stage for the care, display, access to, research and development of the works and ideas of Len Lye, an extraordinary thinker and far-sighted artist. A visionary New Zealander, Lye’s work has enthralled audiences throughout the world since early last century and his values of innovation, engineering, ingenuity, technical ability and creativity will provide long term benefits to the community as the home for the nationally important Len Lye collection and archive.

The addition of the Len Lye Centre as part of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery allows for permanent access in an exceptional home that honours the artist, his collection and archive and its value for New Zealanders and international visitors. In June 2011, the Honourable Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage announced support of $4m over two years from the Government’s Regional Museums Policy for capital construction costs budget for the planned Len Lye Centre.

The Len Lye Centre project has attracted outstanding corporate support, with the contribution of $2.5m from Todd Energy towards the construction of the building plus an additional $500,000 over the next five years for an innovative education programme. Internationally acclaimed architectural firm Patterson Associates are the design architects who promise an inspirational design that’s effective and fit for purpose and will offer a striking new contribution to the architectural landscape of New Zealand. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre will help attract tourists and new residents into the region while its economic, cultural and social value extends well beyond the users of the facility to the wider community of New Plymouth District’.

More Info:

L’Ile de Nantes – France

A few years ago I visited the city of Nantes in France, the reason for the visit was to see ‘Les Machines de L’Ile. This is a unique, creative, theatrical project devised by Francois Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice within the urban regeneration area the L’Ile de Nantes.


In 1987 the areas ship yards closed and the city created a vision to regenerate this industrial land and strengthen its links with the city, the river and the Loire Valley. One key element of the vision was to encourage the relocation of creative / cultural entrepreneurs who were enticed with funding and offers of workshop space within former warehouse buildings. L’Ile de Nantes is also the base of international Theatre Company Royal-de-Luxe.


In October 1989, Royal-de-Luxe received an offer from Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was then mayor of Nantes. He offered the company generous funding, a cargo ship and the use of a disused warehouse on the banks of the River Loire in an attempt to bring Royal-de-Luxe to his city.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, president of Nantes Metropole from 1989-2012

“The creative quarter is the result of 20 years of Nantes cultural policies. But it is also a starting point. Thanks to the creative quarter, a new economy has been born…. Nantes could become one of the European capitals of cultural and creative industries. But to exist tomorrow, we need recognise this and invest today.

‘France cannot change without culture, without its artists. During this economic crisis culture is not a luxury. It is essential.”

Last year some 200,000 visitors passed through Nantes during the high summer tourist season, estimated spending was 42 million Euros.
(internet source).

Closer to Home: Yorkshire – UK

The Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011 and completed a ‘Sculpture Triangle,’ which includes the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.


A stunning example of ‘Destination Architecture’ Hepworth Wakefield (designed by architect David Chipperfield to house the cities collection of works by Barbara Hepworth), received 100,000 visitors in the five weeks after it’s opening. In 2012 it had around 500,000 visitors and claims 1.4 million visitors since it opened to date. Annually the numbers have settled to around 250,000.

A Friend and Knowlegable Source 2016

“I understand that Wakefield MBC calculates a secondary tourist spend of £16 per visitor, therefore they would estimate a visitor spend of 20 million pounds in the area since it opened (considering there is a lot of estimation involved in impact claims in general).

There is more verifiable data available for Yorkshire Sculpture Park (although the detailed work is out of date). YSP had a detailed economic impact study undertaken in 2011 by DC Research, independent researchers from Leicester.  It showed that YSP’s direct economic impact at that time was £5.5m.  It showed that in addition to the jobs created at YSP, the supply chain supported a further 45 jobs across Yorkshire.  These figures were based on 277,000 visitors in 2010/11.  2014/15 visitor numbers were 430,000.

In 2016 due to the installation of a hugely popular art installation ‘Poppies’ by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, the visitor numbers are likely to be closer to 600,000 so it would be reasonable to double the 2011 economic impact figures so about and £11million impact”.

Estimating aside, when you look at the figures, it is arguable that each £1 of public investment in Yorkshire Sculpture Park generates a further £7 in economic benefit.

Extracts from Art Council England Report – Contribution of the arts and culture industry to the national economy: Cebr: Centre for Economic + Business Research

“Overall, the arts and culture sector is more than paying its way in the returns it brings to the Treasury. Every pound of public funding going to the Arts Council’s national portfolio organisations pays back £5 in tax contributions from the sector as a whole. The most recent figures show an annual return of £2.35 billion to the Treasury. This new report also estimates that tourism contributed close to a billion pounds per annum to the arts and culture economy, a significant increase on the previous available figures of £860million.

Through tourism – The arts and culture can create additional spending by tourists in two ways. Some visit the UK primarily to visit arts and cultural attractions, while others take part in arts and cultural activities during trips that are made for other purposes, potentially extending trips and generating additional spending as a result. We estimated total spending by visitors to the UK that was directly motivated by the arts and culture amounted to at least £856 million in 2011.

As a catalyst for economic regeneration – Investment in the arts and culture can drive improvements in the quality of the local environment and the standard of life enjoyed by local communities.

Extracts from Creative Industries Federation Report – Arts and Growth

“The creative industries in the UK are booming and an increasingly important part of the economy, with growth outgunning that in finance and insurance and employment up by 5 per cent between 2013 and 2014 against a 2.1 per cent UK average”.

I rest my case! My research may have been personal and cursory but it has affirmed what I already knew – the case for placing cultural drivers at the heart of a vision for urban regeneration is a pretty compelling one.




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