New Zealand's prime minister Helen Clark has put aside $10.8m (NZ$22m) for a feature film production fund, a huge commitment for a country with a population of less than four million people.

It is envisaged that the fund will assist about 10 films at the rate of two or three per year. New Zealand's Labour Government emphasised the importance of culture prior to overthrowing its predecessor in November and the additional assistance is part of a $27m (NZ$55m) raft of assistance to the arts.

The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) will also tip in $2.5m (NZ$5m) and administer the fund. It is also likely to provide development assistance to most of the projects the fund backs.

NZFC chair Alan Sorrell describes the commitment as the biggest initiative to support the production of New Zealand films since the NZFC was established in 1978. He is one of the five trustees alongside NZFC chair Ruth Harley, lawyer David Gascoigne and accountant and former NZ On Air chief executive Chris Prowse. The fifth is yet to be named.

Only experienced filmmakers are likely to attract the necessary overseas attachments but Sorrell also hopes it will encourage New Zealand filmmakers currently working in Hollywood to occasionally return to do some modest projects.