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The criticism came at yesterday's 10-year plan hearing, when members of Transforming Dunedin, a collection of arts and culture advocates, pointed out the draft budget contained no funding increase for the sector for the next decade.
The group comprised filmmaker and screenwriter Allan Baddock, Dunedin Street Arts Charitable Trust chairman Scott Muir, Fortune Theatre artistic director Jonathan Hendry and Puaka Matariki Festival co-ordinator Vicki Lenihan.
Mr Baddock congratulated the council on its draft 10-year plan, which included bold proposals like the $20 million waterfront bridge.
But he questioned the absence of anything similar for arts and culture, especially when the city had been bold enough to commit to Ara Toi Otepoti - Dunedin's arts and culture strategy.
Investing in the arts could deliver "astronomical'' returns, but the draft budget appeared to be "business as usual'', he said.
It did not indicate the council saw the value of the sector, he said.
"Where is the boldness? Where are the exciting things planned for the creative sector?''
Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said the omission was a "timing issue'', as major projects like the central city upgrade would include public art and other initiatives "designed to reflect who we are''.
The problem was the project - and with the tertiary precinct upgrade - were not yet advanced to a stage where those details could be provided, she said.
That would happen as the work continued, and Transforming Dunedin would be consulted, she said.