'Crazy' ARC move may cost film industry jobs

A proposal to restrict film production in parts of West Auckland, including at the beach made famous by the movie The Piano, was yesterday described as "just crazy".

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said the Auckland Regional Council proposal would jeopardise thousands of jobs and an industry worth millions of dollars a year.

The ARC is looking to change its parks management plan to limit discretionary activities, including filming, involving more than 50 people.

The limit would relate to six locations in the Waitakere Ranges, including Piha, Karekare and Anawhata beaches.

The aim is to protect sensitive environments from the effects of repeated use for events such as filming commercials and sporting competitions.

Last year there were 22 discretionary activities at Karekare, which featured in Oscar-winning movie The Piano. The proposal would cap the annual figure at five.

Mr Harvey, a former deputy chairman of the Film Commission, said the Auckland region, and Waitakere in particular, was home to 70 per cent of New Zealand's screen production.

It employed 3300 people, sustained nearly 1000 businesses and generated revenue of more than $1.3 billion.

"To place severe controls on that level of activity is just crazy," he told the ARC's parks and heritage subcommittee.

He said that the country's largest film studio and sound stage, which would employ 250 people, was due to open in Henderson this month at a cost of $7 million.

"On the one hand, the private sector is pouring millions of dollars into developing infrastructure," he said. "On the other, they are being told they aren't wanted."

The proposal as it stood was a "blunt tool" that could jeopardise activities such as school trips.

"Everybody acknowledges how special and sensitive the ranges are," Mr Harvey said.

"But we have to balance good stewardship with commonsense."

- NZPA

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