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Auckland: super city or super 8

The argument for ensuring that the Supercity ‘gets it right’ when establishing its protocols, regulations and aspirations around screen activity is compelling. The most recent numbers, from Statistics NZ’s latest Screen Industry Report, point to substantial levels of employment (over 1200 companies providing the equivalent of over 2,500 full-time jobs) and substantial amounts of folding ($878 million) being generated over the course of a year.

Of the dollar amount, around 40% is generated by inbound or export activity, projects from outside the region (including from overseas) bringing projects into the region to shoot or post.

A major opportunity the creation of the supercity provides is to streamline regulatory approvals. Presently there are seven councils, plus the Auckland Regional Council, each operating their own criteria, interpretations of regulations, and charging structures that impact screen-related activities such as location shooting, road closures and resource consents.

Staff who deal with screen-related permit applications work in different departments, such as events units, economic development units and marketing and communications departments, depending on which council they work for.

Film Auckland did a good job of assembling all the information from the different councils into one place, The Green Book, a free resource available for download from their website. However, it should all be a lot easier come November next year. But will it?

The honest answer at this stage is: who knows?

Michael Brooks, Executive Manager of Film Auckland, firmly believes that the supercity “presents a genuine opportunity to ensure that we create the best possible environment for domestic and inbound screen activity.”

What that “best possible environment” might be is something Film Auckland will be grappling with over the next few months. The organisation has embarked on a consultative process to try to come up with a clear proposal that it can put in front of the Transition Agency.

Central government has been accused of ‘meddling’ with the plans for the supercity so far, with the amount and nature of local representation, Maori representation, public transport and even the new boundaries all being issues under which the ground has shifted more than once.

It is, therefore, important for the industry that it keeps its eye on the ball for changes and developments that might impact, either positively or negatively, on the future of doing business in the region.

The opportunity exists to increase the amount of activity, employment and value of screen industry work to the city if the new order gets it right. Film Auckland intends to push it to do that job.