4 Mar 2021

Film company's plans to build studio near Wanaka may be fast-tracked

4:32 pm on 4 March 2021

A film company has been granted permission to apply for fast tracked consent to construct a film studio and sets near Wanaka.

Generic stills of Wanaka

Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Silverlight Studios Limited applied to Ministry for the Environment to build the facilities including a film school and theatre off The Wanaka Luggate Highway.

The company is owned by production designer Ra Vincent, director Mike Wallis and film accountant Jonathan Harding - all originally from Southland.

A spokeswoman said the development would be in a large undulation in the middle of a 322 hectare site with the balance being maintained as open paddocks.

"The park will include four purpose built sound stages, VFX stages, workshops and unique features such as a replica portion of Central Park, New York - of one of the most used film locations in the world."

She said Silverlight Studios looked forward to starting conversations with local residents about the development.

The ministry accepted their application under the special Covid-19 legislation as constructing the studio complex would create up to 300 jobs and when it was up and running could employ over 1000 people.

The studio will now need to lodge an application for consent to the Environmental Protection Authority.

New Zealand Film Commission chief executive Annabelle Sheehan said if it went ahead the studio would be the only purpose-built film stage facility in the South Island.

"The South Island is a big player in the film industry so to have a purpose built facility is almost certainly going to attract more interest."

Sheehan said the industry was booming with increased interest form overseas due to New Zealand's current Covid-19 situation.

"We have big productions underway in the South Island at the moment, local projects; Under the Vine, One Lane Bridge and an international project called The Royal Treatment which are all providing a much needed boost for the regions.

"In this current financial year alone the industry is expecting to bring in about $730 million from international productions and create anywhere from 3000 to 4000 jobs," she said.

The proposal near Wanaka has received local support with Queenstown Lakes District Council deputy mayor Calum Macleod signing a letter of support for the development which was sent to the Minister for the Environment.

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