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Auckland has a bob each way on new studio

Auckland Council today voted to back an Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) proposal to create a screen industry “studio campus” at Hobsonville Point, so long as ATEED is able to demonstrate investor commitment by Halloween.

The decision about what to do with the land came down to two options after the marine industry’s lack of willingness to commit to proposals to establish a superyacht manufacture/servicing facility there.

Auckland Council Property put forward a proposal to convert the 20 hectare into 480+ dwellings, supported with retail and commercial premises. ATEED proposed using half the land for residential, commercial and retail activity with the other 10 hectares devoted to screen activity, including improved and enlarged studio options to replace the Auckland Film Studios, part of which was burnt down during last year’s Crouching Tiger 2 shoot.

Auckland Council has today given a green light to ATEED’s proposal, with the caveat that the agency has until the end of October to confirm a procurement deal. If that doesn’t happen, the land will automatically revert to Auckland Council Property’s preferred plan.

ATEED has been in discussions with a range of potential investors and tenants for its plan, including production companies and tertiary institutions. SCREENZ understands that a Radio NZ report earlier today, which claimed that AUT and Unitec had committed to relocating their screen-related courses to Hobsonville, is incorrect.

Several tertiary institutions in Auckland are supportive of the idea of better studio facilities in the region, as is much of the local industry. Industry has argued for several years that the region needed better facilities to attract inbound production – not least to help Auckland compete with the draw of Peter Jackson’s facilities in Wellington.

The government’s move to increase incentive rates for inbound productions and co-productions last April has seen a considerable growth in the amount of work arriving over the last year. At present there are no indications from ATEED about when new facilities are expected to be operational, although part of its pitch to Auckland Council today was that its proposal would generate $483 million over 25 years. While the headline number looks impressive, it equates to an increase equivalent to one medium scale international feature or two TV series per year.

ATEED will hold further discussions with potential investors over the coming months to try to secure the investment commitments it requires to meet Council’s 31 October deadline.