Byron Studios will lease the Alstonville Cultural Centre for movie productions.
Byron Studios will lease the Alstonville Cultural Centre for movie productions.

‘Little Hollywood’ set to transform Alstonville

PLANS for a movie production studio to use the Alstonville Cultural Centre are progressing, despite a feisty debate between Ballina Shire councillors.

Byron Studios wants to lease the entire centre excluding the library in order to secure a major production, believed to be worth about $16 million.

It is an interim solution, because the company is working towards longer term plans to develop a purpose-built sound stage and studio complex in the Innovation Precinct in Ballina.

Negotiations over land and rezoning for that project are under way.

Discussions over the lease for the Alstonville Cultural Centre took place at Thursday's council meeting.

It was a robust rebate, resulting a close 6-4 vote in favour of granting the lease to Byron Studios.

Cr Phil Meehan said it was a "futuristic and visionary" project.

"Sure, we have to consider those (community groups which use the Alstonville Cultural Centre) and we have to support those, but we simply cannot let this opportunity pass us by," he said.

"It has so much upside ... in regard to employment.

"If we think about Alstonville and the main street there ... we've seen the hotel close, we've seen banks move out of town.

"If we have a large group of people working at the sound studios, those people will go up the street to get their coffees and morning tea, they will go up there to get their lunch.

"This is a decision about the good of the whole community."

Cr Jeff Johnson he also supported Byron Studios' plans, despite his concerns about closing down a community centre for a private, commercial enterprise.

"There has been little to no community consultation in Alstonville," he said.

"But we do have a fairly unique situation here.

"The vision from Byron Studios is amazing.

"I think it's a credit to the council that we've been working with Byron Studios to try to make this vision a reality.

"This is a pretty big commitment on council's part and it's a sacrifice for the Alstonville community and the groups that use this facility

But Cr Eoin Johnston said he was very concerned about groups like the Alstonville RSL Tibouchina Day Club, which has regular meetings with about 70-80 people.

"It may not be in your backyard, but it's in my backyard, and I've had a lot of calls," he said.

"I do know what goes on in the town.

"I don't want to be negative, I don't want to be the person who destroyed little Hollywood at Alstonville. I don't want to do that.

"But I also don't want to let down the people that have voted for me."

Cr Stephen McCarthy said he believed it was a golden opportunity.

"We have to let these guys have the chance and try to make it work," he said.

"Alstonville has nothing, and now we're denying them this."

Mayor David Wright he couldn't agree more with Cr McCarthy and said the movie studio would provide opportunities for jobs and opportunities for young people.

The council will now sign the lease with Byron Studios and consult with Richmond Tweed Regional Library and investigate alternative locations for the Alstonville Library.

Negotiations will continue between the community users of the centre and Byron Studios for use of the facility.