In 2002 Bob Harvey had a brainwave. Let Waitakere City ratepayers purchase the disused Enza coolstores and turn them into a film studio. Ratepayers forked out $3.85m to purchase the land and buildings then a further $900,000 to refurbish them. Ownership was vested in Waitakere Properties Limited (WPL).
In 2005 WCC Councillors voted to exchange the film studio land and buildings (valued at $6m) for a minority shareholding in a new public private partnership. The minority shareholding avoided the need for public accountability. Annual dividends of 6-14% were forecasted.
In July 2006 WPL became minority shareholder in Prime West Limited (later Auckland Film Studios Limited(AFSL)).
In June 2010 I expressed concerns to Council about Tony Tay’s involvement (majority shareholder). The majority of Councillors were dismissive of my concerns.
On 19 January 2011 I had a meeting with Doug McKay (CEO Auckland Council) again expressing my concerns.
On 1 February 2011, Tony Tay Film Ltd, the majority shareholder of the film studios went into liquidation. Council purchased his share for $1.515m.
Not one cent has ever been returned to ratepayers. Two dividends were paid to WPL but in its last three years of operation WPL paid no dividend to WCC.
On 13 January 2015, the Western Leader ran a front-page article entitled “Studio in Action”. The article appears to be a summary of comments from the Chairman of AFSL, James Hill. It raves on about the studio being at full capacity and quotes Penny Hulse as saying “This is another very exciting chapter in the history of West Auckland’s movie and television history.” “It is great news which means the film industry out west is flourishing and growing and that in turn means good things for the people who live in the area and the local economy.”
Then on 17 January 2015 the Herald ran an article entitled “Council heads west with new film studio.”
It said ATEED(an Auckland Council CCO) was involved in addressing a shortage of film studio space. O’Riley, CE of ATEED said the council contribution to a PPP(public private partnership) for new film studios would be through providing land rather than cash. Now this is all at a time when our dollar is sliding against the US dollar and property values in Auckland are rising at an all-time high.
I emailed all Councillors to see what they knew about this.
Here are the replies I received.
I’ve read it Gary. On my FB page.
Councillor: Auckland Council
This is the first I have heard of it.
Chris (Christine Fletcher)
I didn’t know anything about this until I heard a rumour just before Christmas that the Deputy Mayor was working to support this. Nothing has been formally reported to councillors.
Linda (Linda Cooper)
4. Dear Gary
The article in the paper sums up the situation well.
Councillors have been kept updated on these issues but as yet no formal proposal has been received.
ATEED and ACIL are working on this and report to the CCO committee as appropriate.
From: Gary Osborne
Sent: 17/01/2015 11:05 a.m.
To: Councillor Penny Hulse
Subject: Film Studio
1. How much do you know about the “new film studio”?
2. Has there been any discussion on the matter with other Councillors?
See p B13 Today’s Herald
I also emailed all West Auckland Local Board members on 17,18 January
1. Were you aware of the proposal for a “new film studio” out west?
2. Has there been any discussion with fellow board members on the matter?
See yesterday’s Herald p B13
Here are the responses:
Hi Gary, This is news to me. Northing has come to the LB. I cant speak for rest of the board. I will look in Herald if it has not gone out in the rubbish.
regards Sandra (Sandra Coney)
No I am not aware of it and have not been party to any local board member discussions.
Margaret (Margaret Miles)
Its probably for a remake of Xena as she fights to become a Super City Mayor.
Duncan (Duncan MacDonald)
I read your blog on the $300 light bulb change. It was an interesting read and showed how much we can spend sometimes. I agree we need to be looking at how we spend rate payers money and make savings where we can.
I read the article in the herald and it sounds like council are just making land available. I will follow the progress of this with interest.
Thank you for your call yesterday I was good talking to you.
Henderson-Massey local board
Mob: 022 367 5853
We have not been informed it’s well outside roll as a board. You need to talk to the GB members
Derek (Derek Battersby)
(I’m GLAD TO SEE DEREK’S ON A ROLL!)
How much do Local Board members and Councillors really know about the Film Studios? I couldn’t tell so I attempted to ring Brett O’Riley on 19 January. He was unavailable but rang me just before 6 pm and claimed Councillors had had several briefing meetings before the article in the Herald.
I sent him an email:
Re article in Herald p B13 17 Jan 2015
1. How much information have Councillors had regarding this matter?
2. Where can I find it?
3. Who owns the land Council would be providing?
Here is his reply:
Kia ora Gary,
Thanks for your email and for taking my telephone call. Please see my response below:
1. Councillors have been verbally briefed several times on the issues and opportunities facing the screen sector. Most recently this involved responding to questions from Councillors at the last ATEED quarterly briefing to the CCO Governance and Monitoring Committee on December 2nd, 2014, in response to a reference to studio infrastructure in our Q1 report (see the link below). Individual Councillors have also been briefed on the screen and digital sector issues and infrastructure situation at their request. Note that there is not yet any formal proposal for Councillors to consider, we are still at the exploratory stage. I explained this to John Drinnan who wrote the NZ Herald piece. We hope to have a formal proposal ready in the next few months, in conjunction with Auckland Film Studios, as reported in the Herald article.
3. The existing Auckland Film Studios land is our preferred site for any new infrastructure.
This didn’t square up with the Herald article so I emailed Brett again:
The Herald article referred to a new film studio and said “the most likely site for the proposed multi-studio complex was in the Hobsonville-Kumeu area.”
1. Please point out how many times Councillors have been briefed on the “most likely site”.
2. Please point out the specific page numbers in the enclosed document where this is done.
3. Why is the most likely site not the preferred site?
His reply was:
Kia ora Gary,
The NZ Herald was wrong in its speculation about the most “likely site” and I advised them of this when I was interviewed.
The Council does have land at Hobsonville Point which we have considered as a possible future expansion site, this would only be required in the event that the current Auckland Film Studios Henderson site cannot accommodate all of the forecast requirements of the screen sector, so it would be additional.
We are still evaluating the requirements of the sector in conjunction with the screen sector including the NZ Film Commission. This is referenced on page 78 of the Council CCO quarterly reports that I sent you. Our current view is that the Auckland Film Studios site and adjacent Council buildings can accommodate the likely requirements.
When we have completed this evaluation of forecast requirements we will report our findings to Councillors.
Hei kona mai,
Councillors are in the dark, Penny Hulse says they’ve been kept updated, Brett O’Riley says there’ve been several briefing meetings. I leave the reader to judge just who’s running the asylum and determining how your ratepayer dollars are being spent.