The creative industries include cinema and television, fashion and textiles, and design. They grew by about 9% in value between 2005 and 2006, much faster than the overall New Zealand economy. By 2008 they contributed about $2.86 billion (3.1%) to New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The New Zealand movie business is the best-known creative industry, locally and internationally. In 1978 the New Zealand Film Commission was set up to fund local productions and New Zealand filmmaking took off, with widely popular movies like Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping dogs.
In the 1990s filmmaker Peter Jackson went from making low-budget comedy-horror films to directing films like the blockbuster Lord of the rings trilogy. He used state-of-the-art post-production and special-effects technology in his Wellington studios.
By 2008 New Zealand had a well-established international reputation for making innovative movies, and for supplying crews and post-production facilities for foreign productions – as well as scenic locations. However the local industry found it difficult to raise the finance needed to make its own films.
Foreign productions, attracted by the low cost of New Zealand as a filming location, bring employment opportunities, and increase professional skills. But they can inflate crew prices for local productions, and at times have breached local pay and working conditions, and safety requirements.
The New Zealand television industry has always had to struggle against foreign competition. It is much cheaper to buy programmes from overseas than to make them locally. Some New Zealand-made programmes have sold overseas, for example the soap opera Shortland Street.
The local television industry has taken advantage of the worldwide move towards technology that allows digital broadcast programming to be received not just on TV sets but also by computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.
Film and television exports
Film and television industries sell their products in various markets and formats. One example is NHNZ (formerly Natural History New Zealand), a documentary filmmaker based in Dunedin. Their documentaries have been seen on television in more than 50 countries and they have won numerous international awards. They sell stock footage and market DVDs of their programmes online.
The fashion industry in New Zealand grew from a tradition of solo designers making tailored or one-off garments for women to wear on race days, weddings and other social occasions.
Jeremy Moon of Icebreaker has introduced a ‘baacode’ to his woollen clothes, a tag attached to each garment that traces its production process right back to the sheep stations that produced the Merino wool it’s made of. By the early 2000s Icebreaker was the biggest name in the Australasian outdoor clothing market. In 2016 its clothes were sold in 4,700 stores in 50 countries.
Overseas styles led local fashion, but from the 1970s more people wanted to buy original New Zealand styles in clothing. Designers like Marilyn Sainty, and brands like Workshop and Streetlife, sold clothes that were often made in studios directly above their shopfronts.
The industry took off internationally in 1997 when fashion designers Moontide, World, Wallace Rose and Zambesi were invited to show at Australian Fashion Week, and later in London.
In 2016 New Zealand fashion designer Karen Walker’s streetwear was sold in over 1000 stores around the world, including New York, London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Sydney and Tokyo. Walker also designed jewellery, eyewear, shoes, bags and fragrances.