Industry keen to see more after film park plans’ accidental premiere

A mammoth film park planned for the edge of Wanaka has been hailed as a game-changer for the film industry in Otago after details were inadvertently made public this week.

Detailed plans for Silverlight Studios’ massive $280 million film studio complex were removed from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website yesterday.

Nevertheless, the public, and many in the industry, briefly got their first look at how Silverlight Studios planned to create sound stages and sets, including replicas of New York, Venice and Paris around an 11ha artificial lake, starting next year.

Silverlight Studios has applied to the Government’s fast-track consenting process, designed to help New Zealand’s economy recover after Covid-19.

Film Otago Southland chairman Brad Hurndell said the ambitious project would add significantly to the "infrastructure" of the region’s film industry.

People working in film in Otago had been eager to see what the project entailed.

"I think everyone is still eager to understand how it will operate within the existing community and what its effects are going to be.

"I think the community probably has mixed feelings and it’s probably due to a lack of information.

"As that information is provided, hopefully, that will get everybody on board and convinced that it is very positive, and good for the community."

Some people in the film industry declined to comment for this story.

However, Film Dunedin co-ordinator Antony Deaker said the wet-weather cover provided by a studio near South Island locations would entice production companies to Otago for longer stays.

There were other studios proposed for the South Island, but nothing that compared to the scale of this project, he said.

Auckland talent agent Gail Cowan said the project was good news for New Zealand’s industry and it made perfect sense to create a studio where the productions could take full advantage of the landscapes.

Dunedin's Rebecca Rowe, who works in the industry, said any studio opportunity in the South Island should be welcomed.

Monarch talent agency owner Tracie Patel said indoor space was the only thing missing from Queenstown’s established film industry.

Makeshift studios had been used in the past, and for anyone to be planning a project this size was exciting news.

"It will put to work the people already here, and it will grow the industry locally.

"It will just add another dimension to what New Zealand’s offering."

Queenstown industry veteran Brett Mills hoped Silverlight was successful and the Wanaka community would have its say during the fast-track process.

It was revealed yesterday construction of the film park could create 4000 jobs in the Queenstown Lakes district.

The company’s consent application said numbers at the film park would be expected to reach 35 cast and 700 crew on an average-sized project.

EPA spokeswoman Michelle Ward said parts of the application documents submitted by Silverlight Studios were "inadvertently published instead of redacted versions proposed by the applicant".

When the EPA was notified yesterday, it removed the specific documents.

The EPA was now working with Silverlight Studios to establish whether there were grounds for information to be redacted.

It was reviewing its process for the publication of fast-track application documents, she said.

"We must consider what needs to be made public in order for anyone who will be invited to comment to have sufficient information on which to comment."

Silverlight Studios would comment at a later date, a spokesman said.

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