An additional $6.2m (NZ$10m) is going to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) for 2004, all government agencies are to be reviewed, and NZ$900,000 over two years has been provided for the establishment of an independent Screen Council and NZ$960,000 over two years for marketing body Film NZ.

The additional NZ$10m will almost double the NZFC's baseline funding in 2004. Prime Minister Helen Clark said it will further support local film-makers to produce more films of the status and quality coming from the Film Fund, which has so far backed Whale Rider and Perfect Strangers.

This fund co-invests with the NZFC and private entities and was set up in 2000 to provide a bridge between the subsidised, low-budget first films that the NZFC has traditionally backed, and fully commercial productions.

The additional money would also help cover the costs of administering the Large Budget Screen Production Grant scheme, which allows producers of footloose films that spend more than NZ$15m in NZ to claim back 12.5% of that spend. It was established back in June.

"The screen production industry was identified in the Growth and Innovation Framework as an enabling sector with significant spillover effects for New Zealand as a whole," said Clark, who is also the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. "Film and television make a significant contribution to New Zealand's economy and export earnings, as well as being very powerful media through which we express our national identity and assert our unique brand.

"It is vital that the local film industry continues to grow and flourish. The government is prepared to make this further investment to help develop the cultural and economic potential of New Zealand's own films and film-makers. Now that the Film Fund's resources are committed (six additional films have conditional commitments), it is time to fund the NZFC on an ongoing basis to continue support for local feature films. "The Film Commission has been central to supporting and developing the New Zealand film industry for a quarter of a century, through developing and funding short and feature films, and putting in place 'upskilling' programs for New Zealand's screenwriters, directors and producers."

"The Government's NZ$10m boost for the NZ Film Commission is perfectly timed", said NZFC chief executive Ruth Harley from MIFED. "Currently the international spotlight is glowing on New Zealand film. This year's London Film Festival opened with a Jane Campion film (In The Cut), featured a Gaylene Preston film (Perfect Strangers), and closed with a Christine Jeffs film (Sylvia). Peter Jackson's The Return Of The King is keenly awaited and Whale Rider has performed spectacularly. The world is looking to see what we will produce next."

The local industry has been complaining for some time that the government has been too focussed on encouraging footloose production instead of supporting homegrown film. Most of the other initiatives came out of the office of the Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton and flow from a taskforce report aimed at creating better conditions for the development of film companies.