Steven Joyce has made some pretty crazy statements over the years however his answer in parliament yesterday surely has to rank as one of craziest. He was being questioned by Labour MP Jacinda Ardern in relation to how the film industry is performing and the odd part starts at about two minutes in.

The key part is also in the transcript below:

Jacinda Ardern : Why are venues like Studio Auckland, which was 100 percent full until a few years ago, now the quietest it has ever been, and why is Studio West, which was fully tenanted for much of the past 12 years, now getting one booking query a month with the owner, stating that this is the worst he has seen the local industry in 20 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : As I say, I acknowledge that some companies are finding it a little bit difficult. I understand, though, in relation to one of the venues the member raises, that one of the particular issues is that it is associated with a railway line nearby, and, of course, Auckland Transport has increased the frequency of trains hugely so it is not as popular as it once was. But I have to say it is a little ironic to be questioned by that party on the health of the screen industry when it was that party that wantedโ€”

Now just so everyone is clear, the studio he is talking to is out west near Glen Eden and is located near to the rail line. You can see it on the map below.

Film Studio West location 1

I’m also not claiming that the train noise isn’t having an impact as I’m sure our noisy diesels can definitely cause problems. What I did find odd is the claim that the issue has come out due to increased frequencies. The reason for that out west we still have only 15 minute peak services – the same as we have had for years – and off peak we only get half hourly services.

So in the graph below I have added up from old timetables how many trains go past the studio within each half hour period of the day. What it shows is that the number of trains going past the studio on a normal weekday is not that different from what it was over 5 years ago with the only difference being that the peaks have been extended slightly.

Trains past Studio West

If we were getting 15 minute frequencies through the middle of the day (which would be great) then yes that would be a dramatic change but until that time it seems like Steven Joyce is just using his dislike of trains as an excuse for what are likely to be other issues. I guess the good news is that in a few years things will be much quieter with the new electric trains running around. I wonder if the benefits to the film industry was listed in the business case for electrification?

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  1. Wrong studio Matt. Yes, you hear some train noise from there but it’s not a problem. Auckland Film Studios are much closer and are still not a major problem (unless you’re talking to sound recordists but even insects are an issue for them ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I had that one in there initially but thought it was called the Henderson film studio, not the Auckland Film Studio.
      Even put this image together for it initially

      1. It used to be called the Henderson Film Studio in the pre super city days (also loving referred to by the industry as ‘the coolies’.

        Studio West in Glen Eden is where they have filmed something like 12 seasons of Power Rangers (I’ve done 3 1/2)

  2. Yes, wrong map, the one he is referring to is Auckland Film Studios in Henderson, its right next to a railway line but was renovated a few years ago to be sound proof and that has never stopped any filming there in the past. Even when it wasn’t sound proof. The industry is really suffering at the moment. Rumour is that other governments increased their subsidies and NZ didn’t so the film companies arn’t coming here any more. Nice one John Key.

    1. Only Studio 5 (the big white roof at the bottom of the picture) is a ‘sound stage’. It incorporates a huge soundproof door and offices. The other 4 studios are just converted cool stores and were where much of Xena was filmed (among others). You can see the row of containers and these have proven pretty effective at blocking noise. The change to EMU’s will improve this substantially.

    1. We do joke in the industry that it’s almost vital that a studio is next to a train track or on a flight path ๐Ÿ™‚

      For comparison, Spartacus was filmed 100% in converted warehouses in Mt Wellington and at Richard Pierce Drive. Evil Dead was filmed in a converted warehouse in East Tamaki. No problem.

    1. Low frequency vibration is also a problem. The new EMU’s will be considerably better in this respect. Can’t say the same for recently acquired DL class freight locomotives which are being used with increasing frequency on lines through the city. Vibration and decibel levels from these more powerful engines appears to be worse than the 50 year old locomotives they are replacing. Guess KiwiRail (and probably the politicians) didn’t give this much thought in the procurement process.

    1. Well that is rather disappointing to find out that after project dart, duplicating the western line and doing all sorts of station and track upgrades that not a single scheduled service has been added in the past 20 years.

      Makes one wonder why there has been such a large growth in rail usage percentage wise when nothing has happened to increase frequencies.

      1. Because they are lacking a) the trains to run more services and b) the trip times from Henderson to Britomart have dropped. You used to spend ages waiting for trains along the old single line.

        1. So if you no longer spend ages waiting for a train on the single line section, what have they replaced that waiting with to keep frequency the same? Are the trains driving slower now or something?

          1. Frequencies have improved from what they were before DART but not by the level promised and as the graph points out, haven’t changed much at all in the last few years. Yes trains are taking a little bit longer which is primarily due to having longer dwell times to account for higher passenger loads.

    1. Fair enough…

      With regards the studio pictured, the line of containers seems to prove that they do have a noise issue. And presumably the studio owners indicated this to Joyce at some stage, and it wasn’t his own original research. At the end of the day a badly located studio is no big issue… it’ll close and other better-located studios will take up the slack. I don’t know what Joyce is supposed to do about it.

      In general, I’m confused about what Ardern expects Joyce to do about the industry. If the government increases subsidies then Labour and the Greens will accuse it of crony capitalism. Our labour laws seem to be appropriate for the film industry. The discussion in the clip seemed to indicate that this is an Auckland problem, which presumably means Wellington is doing just fine. So maybe Auckland factors are making the industry uncompetitive? If so, the question might have been better directed at Len Brown. I get the feeling that Boris Johnson is focused on facilitating international business and industry in London, and that contributes to it being a very competitive and outward focused city. On the other hand, I think Auckland is quite inward looking economically, and economic competitiveness and exports aren’t such a priority for Auckland Council.

      1. Good call obi.

        Sadly Len does seem to be a little too much into accomodating residents at the expense of business, hough his council doesn’t help.

        1. Our regional competitors (Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to a lesser extent) are world beta cities. But largely Auckland is just the back office of NZ. It is where we process agricultural products and handle the accounts. There are some exceptions to this… the film and TV industry being one example, boat building another, and Orion are doing really well in health care software. I think making Auckland internationally competitive, export focused, and a destination for international commerce is probably the biggest challenge for the city. Infrastructure issues (such as telecoms and transport) contribute to achieving this, but they’re WAY behind entrepreneurship, our ability to attract investment and immigration, and our ability to sell products and services to export markets.

          I really hope that a Labour-Green government don’t ban foreigners from owning homes here. Think of world alpha cities like New York and London… immigrant populations make them what they are, and rich immigrants don’t want to be tenants.

          1. I thought that they were only looking at banning foreign ownership if the person dod not have a resident’s visa? Though I understand your concern.

          2. I’m pretty sure that specifically ‘rich’ immigrants have had far less impact on places like London or NY than their working class counterparts..I fail to see how allowing foreigners to buy NZ property will do anything to facilitate international competitiveness.

          3. Off topic but don’t misrepresent policy Obi. Labour’s policy regarding foreign ownership is nothing to do with immigration, only a ban on foreign investment in the housing market from non-residents.

      2. I have suggested within a film industry forum that maybe, considering the UP and the current studio’s proximity to Henderson train station, that perhaps some land should be procured out near Westgate and the current land put up for sale once land values there are at a suitable level. Rob Tapert (who knows what he is doing) believes that clear span, commercial buildings are more than suitable for studios and dedicated sound stages don’t justify the cost, and indeed push up the rental price to a point that makes it unaffordable.

  3. Is this the Steven Joyce who would not let TVNZ have subsidies to operate the very good Freeview channels, but effectively gave huge subsidies to the privately owned Mediaworks?

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