Fence, signage...action, finally, at Silverlight Studios?

by Kim Bowden - Jan 29, 2024

Security fencing and signage has been erected at the entrance to a planned mega film studio in Wānaka, after years of no visible action at the site.

Mike Wallis, the chief executive of Silverlight Studios has not responded to requests from Crux for an interview today, however industry sources have confirmed a film project is set to make use of the location.

Crux has been told Kiwi filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi may be heading the project, which one source says has the working title 'Tears in Rain'.

A fence has been erected in recent days at the entrance to Silverlight Studios' Wānaka site.

The Wānaka shoot is expected to take approximately 10 days, starting the second week in February, according to the source.

Mr Waititi was in Wānaka in December with wife Rita Ora, who posted to Instagram about the couple's stay at Piwakawaka Point.

Kahli Scott, the manager of Film Queenstown Lakes, the Queenstown Lakes District Council's in-house film office, acknowledges something is happening at the Silverlight site, but says she is unable to provide any further details.

"I understand there’s a fair amount of community interest in Silverlight, but I’m not able to comment on the project, as it’s a private project."

It has been 10 months since the then-Labour Government announced it would underwrite $4.5 million of Silverlight Studios' proposed $280-million Wānaka film studio, which if it fully eventuates will be the country's largest.

Plans given green light in December 2021 after a fast-tracked resource consent process, established to boost employment and the post-Covid economic recovery, include replicas of New York's Central Park and the canals of Venice, as well as 10 sound stages.

But speaking with Crux at the announcement of the government support last year, Mr Wallis said his immediate focus was on scaled-back plans, while he sought further support from investors.

Crux understands construction work is yet to begin at the site, located on the Wānaka-Luggate Highway.

Last week Mr Wallis met with National's new Waitaki MP Miles Anderson, who says he was invited to Wānaka by the studio.

Silverlight Studios' grand plans for the former rural property on the Wānaka-Luggate Highway (Image: Tilt Architecture).

While "it is quite exciting what they are proposing" the studio faces some "challenges", Mr Anderson says.

"I am going to see what I can do to assist the best I can.

"I pointed out to them the government is in a difficult position financially, so it's not as if we're going to be handing out money in grants or donations from the taxpayer as may have happened in the past.

"We need to make sure if there is any government investment in the future there is a return for the taxpayer."

Silverlight Studios majority shareholder Mike Wallis with Waitaki MP Miles Anderson, at the site of the company's proposed mega film studio in Wānaka (Image: Facebook/Miles Anderson for Waitaki).

He says ventures like the proposed studio have the potential to "bring opportunities to the communities around them and the wider area" as well as "provide long-term, high-value jobs".

"I see it as a win-win."

In September the company was given an extra five years to deliver on its vision, with its orginal resource consents now set to lapse in 2029.




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