A major new film studio complex in the Australian state of Victoria got the greenlight this week, after the state's government agreed to commit US$22m (A$40m) of public funding to the US$60m ($A110m) project.

To be built in the state capital of Melbourne, Central City Studios (CCS) will have five new production studios totalling nearly 7,000 square metres by early 2004. A sixth studio and a cluster development of related businesses will follow on the six hectare site.

The construction will be a welcome one for the international and local Australian industry. Because of the flood of big budget productions coming to Australia - largely thanks to the 12.5% tax rebate announced a year ago - there are currently not enough studios to go around.

"This is a major boost for Victoria's creative infrastructure which will deliver lasting economic and cultural benefits for this State," said Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, who expects the studios will generate an extra A$100m in film and television production annually. "The studio will put in place the last building block needed to position Victoria as a major centre for film and television excellence."

Without studios, Victoria has not been able to attract offshore work at the same level as New South Wales, which has Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, or Queensland, which has the Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios on the Gold Coast. Like CCS, both these studios were developed with state government funding.

Drama production levels in Victoria are already soaring - they topped a record A$170m in the 12 months to June 30. The figure includes 12 feature film.

The key members behind the CCS consortium are businessmen Peter Bartels and Tim Barnett, and producer Helen Watts. Since the State Government named CCS as "preferred tenderer" back in January, they have been joined by Sino Guzzardi, who provides interactive technology for the hospitality and health care industries.

A different consortium, backed by Viacom, unsuccessfully tried to raise money for studios to be built on the same site over two years ago. This had led to scepticism about whether this development would get a green light.

The studio is part of a bigger redevelopment scheme, which includes residential, recreational, and other high technology businesses in the heart of the city.