'IT IS HUGE': Grand plan to make Ballina a 'movie town'
WORK is progressing behind the scenes to transform Ballina into a "movie town", with a new studio firming up plans to open in the shire and a $16 million film "on the hook".
At Ballina Shire Council's commercial services committee meeting, Byron Studios' Mark Holden and chairman Pat Grier spoke to councillors about their plans.
"We want to partner with Ballina Shire Council in order to create a movie town here and get movies made here," Mr Holden said.
"We're still talking to the $16 million movie that we mentioned at the last presentation (to the council), it's still on the hook.
"They've been out to Alstonville to look at the facility (the Alstonville Cultural Centre) out there and they love it and it's looking really good."
Mr Holden said they hoped to build their new studio in the Southern Cross Expansion and Innovation Precinct by 2023.
"Opportunities are there and increasing every day, and we're very keen to jump on the bandwagon and get some movies made," he said.
Mr Grier said it would bring hundreds of quality jobs to the region.
"There's a huge opportunity to make this a movie production area… everything is coming together, all the stars are aligning, to actually get that done," he told councillors.
"It is huge where we could go with this.
"Firstly it will bring jobs to the reason, and secondly, I think it's going to put Ballina on the map."
The first step is a $90,000 feasibility plan, which is expected to be funded equally by the council, the state government and Byron Studios.
The council will also progress the rezoning of the land for the new studio, as well as the overall masterplan for the area.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader said it was pleasing that there was so much interest in the precinct.
"It's an investment in our economic future," she said.
"It's exciting, it's clean, it's job creating, it's a terrific project. Honestly, I don't think it gets much better than this."
Cr Phil Meehan agreed: "I support this proposal wholeheartedly ... (I think it is) one of the most exciting projects for Ballina in the last 20 years. Let's get right behind it."
Mayor David Wright thanked Byron Studios for "having confidence in coming to Ballina".
What else will be in the innovation precinct?
The council says interest has been "very strong" from parties seeking to develop lots on the innovation precinct, including:
● INXS museum
● Byron Studios
● Food hub or farmers and produce market
● Bio medical type uses
● Hotel / motel.
History of Ballina's innovation precinct
● 2018: State Government granted the council $3.95 million towards the development of five lots forming the Innovation Precinct, which was to be completed by March 31, 2020
● February 2020: The council is granted an extension to have works completed by March 2021
● May 2020: Council decided to excise the first stage of the innovation precinct from the "complex" rezoning process, and for this stage to proceed ahead
● July 2020: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment approved this proposal but only granted a three month extension of time. The deadline for completion of rezoning for the Innovation Precinct has been revised to January 31, 2021.