Waitakere Film Studios ride again!

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I am pleased to see that Waitakere Film Studios is now again under full Council ownership.

I was one of the Waitakere City Councillors who in 2002 decided to buy the original studio.  It had been the site of a nascent film industry in West Auckland.  The owner went broke and the possibility was that the film industry would be compromised.  The studio could have been sold and closed down.  The land itself was worth the purchase price so I thought that it made a great deal of sense to buy it.  If it did not work out the land could be sold or used for another purpose and the ratepayer would not have missed out.

Since then the studio has been an outstanding success.  The West has been the centre for filming of some outstanding films such as the Chronicles of Narnia, In My Father’s Den and the Vintner’s Luck amongst many others.  The filmography is really impressive.

There are many local businesses that have grown and thrived because of the studio.  The growth in demand since 2002 has meant that brand new built for purpose studios needed to been constructed.  This has happened because of and was funded by Tony Tay’s interests’ contribution to the public private partnership.

Following the failure of Tony Tay’s company I believe the decision to buy its shares in the studio to be a correct one.  There have been reports that Tay’s company shares have been bought for $1.5 million dollars.  If this is correct the price was cheap.  Tay’s interests held 56% of the shares in a studio complex worth $7 million or more.  The price appears to be less than half that which should have been paid.

Some suggest that Council should divest itself of the studio but I wonder why.  It is like other pieces of infrastructure that are publicly owned but which private enterprise rely on.  Should we sell our roads or railway stations or universities or schools in the hope that private owners can make some money out of it?

And besides the essential cost is the price of holding onto the land.  For that investment we have a local quality industry that creates tens of millions of dollars of economic activity each year.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse deserves praise for this decision.  She was part of the Waitakere Council many years ago that decided on the initial investment.  The decision was unanimous back then and if this Council had any sense it should have been unanimous now.

Public ownership will ensure that the Studio continues to be available and that an important local creative industry’s future is assured.

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