The climate is right for the New Zealand government to help bolster our multi-media industry, says Kevin Wright, director of multimedia producer Pacific Interactive.
Wright's comments follow the visit to Auckland last week of Sydney's University of Technology associate professor Shirley Alexander, an internationally renowned specialist on interactive multimedia development. Alexander told a group of industry professionals that a few years ago, the Australian government decided the country should become not just a consumer of other people's information products but a real producer. It commissioned a range of reports to kick-start the Australian multimedia industry and put $A100 million into a range of initiatives.
Alexander says they have had a big impact. "It's now a $180 million export industry ... I'm surprised to see that the New Zealand government doesn't seem to have developed its own initiatives."
Wright says people are now recognising now New Zealand's multimedia industry is "missing the boat" because it doesn't have access to venture capital.
"There have been a number of businesses which are trying to get into the consumer market offshore, and they have found the resources needed to do it are just daunting."
Wright says the New Zealand industry already knows it has the talent and skills — it just needs the finance.
He says, for example, Pacific Interactive has plans for several CD-ROM projects which have been proven overseas (they re-make titles already made overseas), but there's no way the capital can be found in New Zealand for them.
"A year or so ago it was totally politically incorrect to be talking about such things ... but there seems to be a recognition that New Zealand is being left behind and we've got to have something to help our industry."
Wright says the Australian initiatives have created a new industry which has thousands of people working in it. The initiatives included an Australia On CD programme where $A7.5 million was provided for the production of 10 different CD-ROM titles. It also provided seed funding for cooperative multimedia centres (relationships between industry and education), and launched the Australia Multi-media Enterprise — providing project investment for the multimedia industry.
Wright says the first step here should be a government report. He says a group of multimedia developers is looking to start an industry association — something Alexander believes is a good step, and can be used to lobby the government.
"At least the New Zealand government should be thinking about where they sit in this global information age."
She says most countries have some sort of strategy in place, including some surprising ones such as Israel.
She was disheartened to see the level of despondency from some in the industry here, and the fear that talented people could be lost to other countries.