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A Measure of Culture


From Brian Pink, Government Statistician, Statistics New Zealand and Martin Matthews, Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Increasing recognition is being given to the importance of cultural activities in the daily lives of New Zealanders. Our sense of nationhood and identity is dependent to a significant extent on our experience of New Zealand culture and heritage – a matter of increasing relevance in an ever-globalising world. A developed culture, an appreciation of the unique aspects of our culture – particularly Māori culture – and a strong cultural identity contribute positively to matters as diverse as economic growth, social cohesion, the acceptance and encouragement of diversity, creative thinking in a range of fields, and the imbuing of self-confidence in people. Intrinsic value is also derived from cultural experiences, with their power to stimulate and enlighten us.

Given the increasing emphasis placed on the role of culture by both local and central government, it is timely that "A Measure of Culture: Cultural experiences and cultural spending in New Zealand" is being released. It is the sixth publication in the Cultural Statistics Programme operated jointly by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Statistics New Zealand. The Cultural Experiences Survey, on which much of the report is based, was made possible through funding from the Cross Departmental Research Pool.

Based on the "New Zealand Framework for Cultural Statistics", information from the Cultural Experiences Survey provides a snapshot of New Zealanders’ engagement with cultural activities as diverse as listening to popular music, visiting museums and art galleries, visiting marae and buying original art works and craft objects. This information is supplemented by expenditure information from the Household Economic Survey, which updates an earlier report, "Household Spending on Culture (1996)", and provides an expanded view of New Zealanders’ cultural activities.

The report presents a number of notable findings from the Cultural Experiences Survey. One is the high level of engagement by New Zealanders with cultural activities, with 93 percent having experienced at least one activity during the survey period. Another is the very high level of interest in New Zealand content in a range of activities, including theatre, music and literature. The section on barriers to experiencing cultural activities identifies issues that can help inform cultural organisations in their delivery of cultural activities. Finally, the information on household spending indicates that the economic importance of spending on cultural activities cannot be overlooked, as it accounts for 4 percent of domestic expenditure.

It is our hope that those who use this report find the information useful. It is, however, only a beginning. Potentially, there are many other aspects of cultural activity that can be explored through the data from this survey. Further information derived from the survey is available on request from Statistics New Zealand.


The authors of this report would like to acknowledge the role of a large and varied group of people and organisations in this project. Firstly our thanks go to the cultural sector organisations consulted during the setting up of this project. We hope this report provides information on which you can build. We would like to thank the staff of Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage for their support and assistance throughout the project. In particular, we would like to thank Denise Brown and Anne Spellerberg, at Statistics New Zealand, and Jane Komink and Jim McKenzie, at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, for their roles in the project from beginning to end.

Finally, we would also like to acknowledge the Australian Bureau of Statistics; Grant Cushman and Bob Gidlow, of Lincoln University; and Henry Barnard, Susan Abasa and David Butts, of Massey University, who acted as peer reviewers. Their comments have helped strengthen this report.

This report was prepared by Mary Donn, of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and Patrick Ongley and Ronwen Bowker, of Statistics New Zealand, and was published by the Publishing Services Division of Statistics New Zealand.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Cross Departmental Research Pool.

Liability statement

Statistics New Zealand gives no warranty that the information or data supplied contains no errors. However, all care and diligence has been used in processing, analysing and extracting the information. Statistics New Zealand shall not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by the customer consequent upon the use directly, or indirectly, of the information supplied in this product.

Reproduction of material

Any table or other material published in this report may be reproduced and published without further licence, provided that it does not purport to be published under government authority and that acknowledgement is made of this source.


Link to the Cultural Experiences Survey Questionnaire.

Updated 16 January 2018

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