Culture portal NZLive under fire

Private sector rival Eventfinder says NZLive.com duplicates its efforts and wastes taxpayer money

A cultural website developed by the government is being accused of duplicating private sector investment and wasting tax dollars.

NZLive.com was launched in September 2006 as part of a Ministry for Culture and Heritage initiative to provide a platform for promoting New Zealand Culture.

However, Michael Turner, CEO of private event listings website Eventfinder.co.nz, says NZLive has instead become an events calendar and duplicates Eventfinder’s content.

“They’re extraordinarily similar. It’s [NZLive] an events database when the mandate was for a cultural portal.”

Elizabeth Griffin from the ministry refutes that suggestion, saying there are many differences between the two sites.

She says features like a cultural funding guide, a directory of cultural and tourism organisations and Māori navigation pathways sets NZLive apart from events websites such as Eventfinder.

Eventfinder has set up another website, whynzlive.com, to attack NZLive and as a platform to list similarities between the two sites.

"Although the Ministry had a budget of $3.6 million, it is determined to burn another $760,000 per year imitating private sector innovation," whynzlive says.

"By all accepted metrics the website has completely failed to meet its stated objectives, despite spending $270,000 on consultancy fees before the website had even launched, and continues to unnecessarily duplicate the innovation of successful New Zealand companies."

The site then asks browsers to email Christopher Finlayson, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. and ask him why more of money is going to be spent on nzlive.com.

According to whynzlive.com, a Request for Proposal from the ministry is looking to add more features already found on Eventfinder, such as comment boxes and allowing users to create personal profiles.

Turner says he can’t understand why the Government is spending millions of dollars on something he claims his site provides.

“Considering the current economic position, National should be reviewing spending on the website, not spending more on it.”

He says the government’s claim it's only spent $1.3 million on the website to date is untrue according to parliamentary records, which he says put the figure closer to $3 million.

Seven months after NZLive.com's launch, in April 2007, then Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark told a gathering at Te Ara, launching an arts funding guide on the site, that it had become essential for the promotion of any form of endeavour to have a presence on the internet.

"The government has set out to be a leader in the use and promotion of digital technologies, both in practice and through the development of both the New Zealand Digital Strategy & The Digital Content Strategy.

"The Ministry of Culture and Heritage has been an enthusiastic promoter of arts, culture and heritage through the internet, having launched Te Ara, the world's first 'born digital', official encyclopaedia; NZhistory.net; the online Dictionary of New Zealand Biographies; and now NZLive.com."

She said NZLive.com provides "up-to-date information about arts and cultural performances, exhibitions, collections, archives, and events of all kinds".

She added that NZLive.com has provided organisations which contribute information to the website with direct, password-protected access to it.

"They can now update their profiles on NZLive.com, and enter new information about their own events and services as they evolve," she said, indicating that personal profiles have been in place on the site for some time.

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