Policy changes to allow film production in Christchurch

Thanks to spectacular landscapes and the expertise of Kiwi film-makers and crew, New Zealand has developed a multi-billion dollar film production industry. But much of the revenue has been concentrated in Auckland and "Welly-wood."

It will be easier to set up film studios in Christchurch after the Crown fast-tracked policy changes using powers granted to it under post-earthquake recovery legislation. Previously, the city’s district plan did not expressly provide for permanent film studios as permitted activities in any zones.

Christchurch City Council asked Regenerate Christchurch to prepare a proposal under the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act, after the council received a number of queries about planning restrictions on setting up commercial film studios. The lack of provision for such activities was seen as a barrier to development, which has the potential for significant economic benefits for the Christchurch area.

Boffa Miskell planners Ken Gimblett and Stephanie Styles were called upon to develop a comprehensive assessment report which was one of the key background documents to the proposed changes. This analysis was necessary to identify the areas of the city in which film studios would be compatible and to develop the provisions to enable these to occur in an appropriate way. “Our first-hand knowledge of the existing plan provisions meant we could quickly identify the modifications needed to streamline the process and prepare the technical analysis under an extremely tight deadline” says Stephanie.

“Film production fell under the category of ‘discretionary activity’ in many zones” says Ken. “There wasn’t clear direction under existing policies on where such activities could occur, and that made setting up a studio in Christchurch an uncertain and potentially costly exercise”.

“Filming could be done here and across the South Island, but the editing and all the rest of the benefits would go to studios in Wellington or Auckland. The region was missing out on a significant economic opportunity.”

Four international productions have been set in the South Island in the last year alone.

The new changes will modify Christchurch’s district plan to make it easier to set up commercial film production facilities in seven commercial, industrial and rural zones around Christchurch. “Those hoping to set up studios would likely still need a resource consent, but the modifications to the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement and the Christchurch District Plan give greater certainty through providing appropriate definitions, policy provisions and rules to ensure appropriate environmental outcomes” says Stephanie.

A proposal to create a film studio on the former Templeton Hospital land has recently gained serious momentum. The plan was submitted to the Government for funding earlier this year, in response to the call for “shovel ready” projects to kickstart the country’s economy.

Industry experts believe the film industry is an area the city’s economy could grow, and Ken agrees. “New Zealand is known as an attractive proposition for film-makers. So if we can increase the ease of doing business in Christchurch, while keeping in line with our existing policies, there’s a real potential upside for our local economy.”

“Boffa Miskell’s team have been closely involved in Christchurch’s recovery and subsequent regeneration processes and we recognise how important it is to encourage business to invest in the city to enable continued growth and development to occur.” says Ken.

Photo:  “The Chronicles of Narnia” filming near Flock Hill Station by Ian Brodie. 100%PureNewZealand

For further information please contact Stephanie Styles or Ken Gimblett

21 September 2020