Decision on multimillion-dollar film studio next month

An artist’s impression of part of the Silverlight Studios proposal. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
An artist’s impression of part of the Silverlight Studios proposal. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
Whether the proposed multimillion-dollar film studio on the outskirts of Wanaka can go ahead should be known by Christmas.

Silverlight Studios should find out by December 8 if it has fast-track resource consent for its $280 million development.

The consenting panel’s decision had been scheduled for November 3 but Covid-19 travel restrictions, questions about Wanaka’s housing crisis and conflicting landscape evidence meant the panel needed more time.

Three panel members and one Environmental Protection Authority staff member intend to visit the Corbridge Estates development site and neighbouring properties on November 22 and 23.

However, panel chairwoman Heather Ash lives in Auckland and cannot come to Wanaka.

In minutes lodged on the Environmental Protection Authority website, Ms Ash has outlined how the site visit will go ahead without her.

Two panel members — Jan Caunter and Karen Coutts — have significant experience around Wanaka and the Queenstown Lakes district, and there is also an expert planner on the panel, Robert van Voorthuysen.

Ms Ash said they would liaise with her before, during and after the site visit.

‘‘The panel will do everything in its power to ensure there is no disadvantage to the applicant or anyone else as a result of the chair not being unable to attend the site visit in person,’’ she said.

Anyone with serious concerns that Ms Ash could not travel to Wanaka had until today to let the panel know.

Following legal advice, the panel recently appointed special economics adviser Simon Harris to review a report by Silverlight Studios’ economics consultant, Natalie Hampson.

The panel wants him to look at housing availability, upwards pressure on house prices and rents, staged development across 10 years, and whether the application will have adverse effects in the short or medium term.

Two landscape architects have not seen eye to eye on the timing and scale of landscaping to mitigate adverse visual amenity effects, as experienced by neighbouring landowner, the Roberts Family Trust.

Ben Espie, for Silverlight, and Anne Steven, for the panel, have each prepared recommendations for the panel and Silverlight’s draft consent conditions have been amended to include Mr Espie’s recommendations.

People and organisations who were invited to comment on the application must have a chance to comment on the amendments.

An Environmental Protection Authority spokesman said it was not appropriate for Ms Ash to respond to questions about the process from the Otago Daily Times.

‘‘The publication of draft conditions is a routine step in the fast-track consenting process, required under Schedule 6 of the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020.

‘‘The preparation and the seeking of comments on draft conditions should not be taken as any indication as to whether the expert consenting panel will ... grant or refuse consent.

‘‘Invited parties have until 18 November to provide comments on the draft conditions.

‘‘The expert consenting panel is preparing to undertake a site visit in late November, prior to issuing its decision on 8 December,’’ the spokesman said.

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