Dispute over housing impact of massive Wanaka film studio

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
The developers behind a $280 million film studio development near Wanaka are disputing a new report which found it could cause a significant shock to the town’s housing market.

Economics adviser Simon Harris has concluded the application by Silverlight Studios Ltd (SSL) would have "more than minor" housing impacts on Wanaka in the short and medium term.

However, a dispute has arisen about workforce estimates during the first two years of the development.

Mr Harris, who is advising the independent fast-track consenting panel, and said "more than minor increases in house prices, rent and crowding are considered likely", based his advice on 4100 additional workers in year 1.

However, in response SSL said that was incorrect and employees would peak at about 1300, with 900 to 1100 workers in year 2.

Mr Harris had based the number off the total "flow-on" workforce, which was spread across not only the district but also the wider region and nationwide, Silverlight said.

In response, Mr Harris said including the flow-on effects gave the relevant figure to use when assessing the impact on housing.

The panel yesterday urgently requested another response from SSL by November 26 addressing how many construction workers would be employed in the first two years of the project.

The panel has a strict deadline of December 8 to release its decision under Covid-19 economic recovery legislation.

There was no flexibility available to the panel to issue a final determination beyond December 8, chairwoman Heather Ash said in a minute lodged on the Environmental Protection Authority’s website yesterday.

Mr Harris also concluded the development would have more than minor effects on Wanaka housing prices and availability in the short and medium term.

Ms Ash said she had to "stress to SSL that the panel expects a comprehensive response" to Mr Harris’ report by November 26 and that "the response is critical to the panel as the issues at stake are a key matter".

She also said she expected SSL to "caucus" with Mr Harris - meaning SSL’s consultant should talk to Mr Harris and produce a record of agreement and disagreement and reasons for any disagreement.

SSL confirmed yesterday it had appointed Natalie Hampson from Market Economics Ltd to respond to Mr Harris’ report and the deadline would be met.

"The response by Market Economics is expected to focus on refining employment numbers relating to construction and the proportion of employment that is likely to relate to new jobs compared to sustaining existing jobs.

"Clarification will also be provided on the assumptions around increased demand for housing over and above expected growth rates and the scale and significance of effects on the housing market," SSL said in a media release.

SSL also acknowledged the documentation for consent was "immense" and appreciated further clarity was needed.

The panel will visit the proposed development site on Monday and Tuesday next week.

As she was based in Auckland, she would join the site visit frequently "by digital means" to take part in discussions with other panel members, Ms Ash said.


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