Bright lights at Henderson’s iconic film studios
27 February 2020
The iconic Auckland Film Studios (AFS) in Henderson are set to remain an active industry screen hub for the next 10 years following a decision by Panuku Development Auckland to extend the site’s lease.
Panuku currently manages the property on behalf of Auckland Council.
The property is leased to Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) which manages the studios and is responsible for working with the New Zealand Film Commission and industry to attract productions to Auckland.
AFS is a series of large warehouses with capacity to craft massive film and television sets – sets that in the past have featured ships, whales and trains – while its centerpiece is the world-class, purpose-built, sound Stage 5 that is a key piece of Auckland’s screen infrastructure for attracting international domestic productions.
AFS is located right on nature’s doorstep with easy access to the Waitakere’s natural assets that capture the attention of international film makers for location shoots.
The Letter For The King, Xena and Whale Rider have all used the studios for production. Today, Auckland’s screen production industry earns more than a billion dollars in gross revenue annually.
Former Waitākere City Mayor Bob Harvey was instrumental in creating the studios, purchasing them on behalf of the council in the early 1990s and converting them from an old apple and pear packing warehouse into a functioning screen studio space.
“It’s a magnificent site close to Auckland and close to the magnificent scenery, the bush, the beach, so you can do almost anything there. The idea of a major film studio in any city really makes the city what it is and now the future is absolutely unbelievable,” says Bob.
“The studios, when they’re going – and they have never stopped going – are an enormous resource for the local industry. They provide business, they provide employment and they provide pride and that’s what good cities are all about.
“That studio complex is now known for the product that it can deliver, the people who work in the studio, from the set builders to the electricians, to the set designers and the costume makers, we’ve been able to deliver a fantastic product for the film and television industry and long may it continue.”
Unlock Henderson Programme Director Richard Davison says the decision to retain the studios is a strategic move designed to increase activity near Henderson’s centre and build investment attractiveness while cementing this area as a hub for the creative industries.
“We’ve heard from locals and the industry alike that this site holds a special place in Henderson’s past and future potential and agree that it would be a shame to lose this asset,” says Richard.
“AFS has drawn business to the area and continues to do so with a number of businesses popping up in the area over the last few decades to service productions at the studios, from building supply companies, prop companies and fabric stores to special effects and craftsman services.
“We’re delighted to be able to retain the studios for the foreseeable future so that a sprinkling of movie magic can continue to be made in Henderson.”
Before the lease extension was confirmed there were plans to add housing to a portion of the site, making the most of the nearby transport connections, which will become even more efficient when the City Rail Link is introduced in 2024.
As a result of this commitment to the film industry these plans are now on hold. Master-planning for this site, which will commence in the next nine months, will focus on ensuring demand for the film studios is supported and maintained.
ATEED’s General Manager Economic Development Pam Ford says: “AFS has long been the epicentre of the west Auckland screen heartland, and a cornerstone of our region’s studio offering. To have its long-term future secured through the agreement between Panuku and ATEED is fantastic news for the industry, giving our world-class screen companies the confidence to invest in the future.
“That means more quality creative industry jobs, opportunities for collaboration and skills partnerships and direct income for local Henderson companies which supply productions.”