Even though the assessment was only partial, the information gathering yielded anecdotal information to support the potential benefits of the Memorandums of understanding (MOUs), informing some useful early insights into the economic effects of the MOUs. However, it has not been possible to substantiate anecdotal information with analysis, and early insights must be seen in this context.
The effects of the MOUs and their value for money
Information gathered from the interviews with the studio representatives implied they thought that most potential ongoing economic effects would have been lost in the absence of the MOUs.
Of the 4 MOUs where it was possible to interview studio representatives, all involved the provision of internships or mentorships. These internships and mentorships are likely to have made some contribution to the enhancement of the skills base in the New Zealand screen sector, and to have helped to increase the attractiveness of the country as a location for screen productions. However, this insight would need to be confirmed through further interviews with and relating to the interns and mentees.
All of the MOUs in question also involved the delivery of a range of screen content that could be used to promote New Zealand as a film location. Further, 3 resulted in the transfer of screen content that could be used by New Zealand agencies to promote the country as a place to visit or study.
1 MOU resulted in investment in filming infrastructure that has subsequently been used for other international productions. The infrastructure in question has already been used for other significant international film productions and appears to have the potential to attract more international productions to New Zealand in the future.
Several of the MOUs also featured technology and skills transfer. It is assumed that the transfer took place because payment of the Uplift was approved, but it is not known how significant the effects of the transfer were, or are likely to be.
The value of these effects has not been able to be quantified through this exercise. COVID impacts such as border closures may also have impacted the size of potential economic effects (e.g., no tourists due to border closures). However, it should be noted that the cost of securing the effects, in terms of the dollar amount of Uplift paid to date for the 3 productions covered by the information gathering has been $11 million.
It is reasonable to seek to understand whether the additional ongoing economic effects of the activities and deliverables flowing from the MOUs are greater than the amount of Uplift paid, as this is an expectation set through granting an Uplift application. It should also be recognised that the Uplift can make the difference between a production coming to New Zealand or going elsewhere. As was argued in the 'Temporary expenditure-related effects'
section, the granting of the Uplift could be regarded as a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition for choosing to locate the production in New Zealand.
Referring to the 2 objectives of the assessment stated in the 'Objectives of the assessment' section, the first broad conclusion is that the MOUs have evidently had some effect, in terms of generating actual economic benefits for New Zealand. However, it was not possible to quantify the benefits to enable conclusions to be drawn on the economic impacts of the Uplift.
It is also difficult to draw conclusions in relation to the approach MBIE may take to future Uplift MOUs and their terms. This is partly because the sample size for the assessment was very small, with the result that the effects and relative effectiveness of different types of term in the MOUs was not clear.
One feature that the MOUs had in common was a commitment to provide different types of screen content and official partner recognition that the NZFC, TNZ and ENZ could use for their own promotional purposes. TNZ and ENZ were able to ascribe EAV to what was provided, but (partly because of COVID) they were unable to demonstrate the extent to which the EAV led to more tangible effects, such as increased tourist and student numbers.
Another feature the MOUs had in common was a commitment to provide internships or mentorships for early career New Zealand production professionals. Based on what the studio representatives said, this sort of workforce development activity is important in helping to maintain the competitiveness of the country’s screen production sector, but it did not prove possible to investigate exactly how effective the internships and mentorships were in this respect.
One of the MOUs stood out from the others, in that it provided for some significant infrastructure investment that has evidently enhanced New Zealand’s offering as a location for screen productions. It may be desirable to use the MOUs to leverage further infrastructure investment.
Several of the MOUs featured technology and/or skills transfer, but it was not possible to assess its significance and, consequently, how strongly it should feature in future MOUs.
The information gathering also shed some light on what was perceived to be missing from the MOUs. The studio representatives voiced a desire for the MOUs, and the Uplift scheme more generally, to be used to create more certainty for their decision makers, as well as the potential for firmer ongoing relationships with the New Zealand authorities. In a similar vein, several of the other informants argued that the MOUs could be made more effective in generating economic benefits if they could be used to forge strategic relationships with the New Zealand agencies responsible for promoting screen production activities.
These desires are understandable, although it is open to debate whether the MOUs are the most appropriate vehicles for addressing the desires.
On a final note, it is re-emphasised that these broad conclusions should be regarded as tentative on the grounds that the research leading to it was less extensive than had originally been planned.