Auckland film industry hub gets the initial go ahead



A screen industry hub including studios and film training schools looks set to be created in west Auckland, following a decision by city councillors on Tuesday.

Auckland Council has given the green light to a Film Studio Campus on 10 hectares of ratepayer-owned land at Hobsonville Point, as long as a commercially viable plan is on the table by October 31.

The venture would create 435 new jobs and contribute $483 million to Auckland’s economy over the next 25 years, advisers have told the council.

The land near the Hobsonville ferry terminal had been earmarked for a superyacht building precinct, but the council has now officially abandoned that plan due to lack of demand.

Plan B was to use the site primarily for high density residential development to help ease the city’s housing shortage.

However a fire which destroyed part of the council-owned Auckland Film Studios in Henderson last year forced a rethink of how the city should support its screen industry.

Brett O’Riley, chief executive of Auckland’s economic development agency ATEED, said the Hobsonville site with its old aircraft hangars was the city’s best option to date for creating a dedicated hub to attract big productions.

While Auckland was currently playing host to large US productions such as the Ash vs Evil Dead and Shannara series, the city had turned away $160 million worth of screen work in the past 12 months due to lack of studio space.

The film campus would be an industry precinct in the same way the new GridAKL facility in the central city was a technology hub, he said.

It would be a public-private partnership, rather than being council run, and would also combine education. At least two learning institutions had expressed interest in locating film courses there.

“Already we have a balance of demand of existing local players… international players, local universities, but also local startup companies that are interested in being based at the site,” he said.

O’Riley recently met with US film studio representatives during a mayoral trade delegation to Los Angeles.

“At the moment we have 16 parties that have indicated interest in this concept,” he said.

However ATEED must present the council with a “definitive and commercially viable proposal” by October 31, or it will go ahead with the alternative plan to use the area for housing.

The timetable was tight but achievable, O’Riley said.

The preferred option of the council’s property arm, Auckland Council Property Limited (ACPL), had been to build houses on 14 hectares of the wider 20 hectare Hobsonville Point site with an employment hub and local centre on the remaining portion.

Its plan would have created up to 441 homes with construction of the first 80 starting straight away.

Under the Film Studio Campus plan 315 houses will still be built on the adjacent 10 hectares.

ACPL chief executive David Rankin said the agency could live with holding fire on the housing component until October.

“We would prefer to get on with our proposal, but viewed objectively there’s no particular material problem caused by a three-month delay,” he said.

Not all councillors supported the film plan, which it’s estimated will cost the council $24 million in lost property sales in the short term.

Councillor Cameron Brewer said he reluctantly backed giving ATEED until October to pull the film plan together.

But he questioned the use of Hobsonville which was “the poster child of residential development”.

“Does it have to be there? Do we need a big format campus… there instead of housing?” he said.

Councillor Cathy Casey said a neighbourhood centre and housing would provide more benefit to local people.

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