The Sound of Dunedin: Live Music Action Plan
By Dr Fairleigh Evelyn Gilmour and Dr Marissa Kaloga (on behalf of the SAVE DUNEDIN LIVE MUSIC).
Dunedin is one of only a few cities in the entire world known for an identifiable music sound and is recognized internationally for its amazingly talented musicians.
The Dunedin City Council’s Arts Strategy, Ara Toi Ōtepoti, “formally recognises both the intrinsic value of arts and culture, and the value of the creative sector as an industry of critical importance in the knowledge economy”. It “aims to position Dunedin as one of the world’s great small cities for arts and culture”.
Recent events have suggested a need to engage further with the music community to ensure that we continue to protect, cherish and promote the live music of Dunedin. A vibrant and enriching music scene needs to engage with the entire music ecosystem – from those first starting out right up to established bands; and needs to support all types of music.
In this submission, we are asking The DCC to set aside funding to investigate and develop a Live Music Action Plan that spans the entire music ecosystem. We further request that the plan is developed in collaboration with the music community and that it covers the following points.
- The Little Venues: Engaging with the district plan to protect live music venues from arbitrary noise control intervention;
- The Medium Venues: Prioritizing a medium-size venue for live music in Dunedin;
- Supporting rehearsal spaces;
- Events: Streamlining application and approvals processes for music festivals and events;
- Furthering the promotion of music initiatives; and
- Developing a long-term plan that includes considerations about the future a growing city.
Even the biggest bands started out by practicing relentlessly in rehearsal spaces, playing at tiny venues and then moving onto mid-sized venues (and then big venues!). Even the littlest cities need to thoughtfully and proactively ensure they can grow the vibrancy, richness and diversity of their music culture. In this section, I expand on each of the key points:
- THE LITTLE VENUES. We ask that the DCC provide planning solutions to enable growth in the local live music industry. One example is the noise control issue. Currently the DCC relies exclusively on the RMA when engaging with noise complaints. While the RMA defines excessive noise, it does not define ‘reasonable’. The remit of a noise control officer is actually to work with the person producing the noise to turn it down to a ‘reasonable level’. Other councils around NZ have adopted guidelines as to what is reasonable in which part of the city and at what time (including, for example, Wellington and Christchurch). This is done as part of the district plans. The DCC are able to undertake a variation in the District Plans to accommodate live music in the CBD zone. We ask that the DCC explore this at the soonest available opportunity.
- THE MEDIUM VENUES. Recent explorations into a mid-size venue in Dunedin were targeted only at theatre and did not consult with the music community. The options put forward in the 10-year plan DO NOT address the real issue for the music community which is the absence of a concert venue which can cater for between 500-800. We ask that the council urgently explore a more equitable solution.
- REHEARSAL SPACES. Bands need to practice somewhere. City councils across New Zealand – from Palmerston North to Hamilton, from Auckland to Wellington – have either council-run or council-funded rehearsal rooms that can be booked at minimal cost. We ask that the council investigate options in Dunedin.
- EVENTS. While other cities in New Zealand have worked to facilitate using green zones for events, Dunedin currently has a time-consuming process that prohibits people from using our spaces for innovative and culturally enriching events. We ask that the council explore how to streamline the application and approvals process to put on events in these zones.
- PROMOTION. We ask the council to explore how they can support commercial opportunities for artists across all levels of the music scene AND
- THE FUTURE. We ask that the DCC develop a clear way forward, particularly in terms of district planning, that will facilitate the growth of a vibrant city of music. This includes considering long-term how the city can grow additional artistic hubs (outside of the CBD). We also ask the DCC to investigate how to approach regulations around development such that medium density housing can co-exist with a vibrant city (through exploring, for example, noise insulation requirements, as Wellington Council has done).
We have already appreciated the council’s thoughtful and constructive approach to our raising of these issues and we look forward to continuing to work with the council.