New Zealand film agency Film Auckland is bidding forUS$1.8m (NZ$1.7m) from the New Zealand Government to help construct a secondpurpose-built film sound stage in the country.

New Zealand's only other purpose-built film stage is downsouth in Wellington and is now being used for Peter Jackson's King Kong.It was built earlier this year, also with assistance from government.

The application was submitted last week through theAuckland Regional Economic Development Strategy and, according to Film Aucklandexecutive manager Natasha Christie, a decision will be made in mid-November.The Auckland region accounts for as much as 70% of all New Zealand's productionfor the screen.

If the money is forthcoming it is likely to go towards afifth stage at the Henderson Valley Studios, the former apple and pear coolstore and pack house complex that has been used for production for a decade. Itis currently housing The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And TheWardrobe.

"We are aware of projects that do not come or do notconsider coming to New Zealand because of a lack of available and appropriatespace," says John Wadsworth from the city of Waitakere, which purchasedHenderson in October 2002. Since then it has had an 84% occupancy rate."For the country to maintain its status as a hot destination it needs toaccommodate demand."

The plan is to pull together a mix of private and publicmoney for the project. Some of the $1.8m over three years will be spent onmarketing and on boosting skills among senior crew members.