Sad day for Avalon

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Sad news today as it is announced that TVNZ is to sell Avalon studios. The famous Avalon studios opened in 1975 at 41 Percy Cameron Street, and was NZ’s first custom-built television centre.  1975 was also the year that the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation was dissolved (perversely on the 1st of April), and split into Radio NZ, TV1 and TV2 (later South Pacific TV).  Radio NZ is the only survivor, and many say the only evident of a public broadcasting system left in NZ.

The building was no doubt designed by the Ministry of Works under the watch of government architect Frank Irvine Anderson – but hopefully someone in the ether knows a little more about the background of this wonderful gem of a building.  Like Broadcasting House was (built 1960, demolished c1997), Avalon Studios are symbolically and functionally a moment of excellence in NZ broadcasting.  Broadcasting House (probably still lamented) reputedly had the best recording studio in Australasia.

News that TVNZ has been keen to sell has been known about for a while, circulating last year along with rumours that Peter Jackson might buy it, and the sense that TVNZ would have difficulty finding anyone else interested.  Attempts to sell Avalon have been tried in 1997 and 2000.



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Posted under: Comment | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Sad day for Avalon”

  1. Guy Says:

    Why don’t they have one channel broadcasting from Auckland and another from Wellington? We are still lacking any form of decent local channel. When I was in the US in the 80s, even small towns would have a local tv station. Here we are 20 years later in a capital city of 180,000 people, and we still have nothing. Avalon is too good to go to waste.

  2. m-d Says:

    Bill Alington and the Engineer Colin Strachan were among the team at the Ministry of Works who worked on the initial Avalon scheme, until it was taken away and given to an Auckland firm when NZBC was thirded into TV 1, TV 2, and RNZ. Apparently they used the the MoW basic planning, but not the constructional methodology, including the use of pre-cast concrete elements…

    I think much of it was quickly out-dated by the 1980s as broadcasting technology evolved so rapidly at this time – meaning that the set-based approach was quickly superseded as ‘en plein air’ became easier and more rewarding – thus relegating Avalon’s role to News and Game Show productions). i’m not sure that we will miss it too much in the grand scheme of things.

    I am unsure of who the Auckland firm was that were responsible for the final commission…

  3. richard Says:

    M-D they have updated the technology since the 1970s … and several UK productions have been filmed there in relatively recent years – most of them mediaevally-themed from memory. Some of the outdoor sets were supplemented by digital effects. One thing that doesn’t change, which works, is the acoustic separation of the studios some of which are adjacent to the workshop! I like the comment on the radio this morning reminding that tax payers paid for it – perhaps it could become a new site for the NZ Film Archive (leaving a branch office in Taranaki St) and a National Broadcasting/Film School. Next to the TVNZ archive is good, and the train station isn’t too far away …

  4. Guy Says:

    Starkive might have a word to say on that. The Film Archive has only just – this week? – opened their new archive building in Plimmerton.

    Of course, the real issue is that no one wants to be stuck out in the wop-wops, and if this building was in Wellington, it would be packed. Upper Hutt just ain’t a happening place.

  5. m-d Says:

    richard – good points, and I think coming up with an intelligent and productive alternative is the way to go…

    Guy – Avalon is a suburb of Lower, rather than Upper, Hutt (not sure if that makes any substantial difference to your point though…)

  6. richard Says:

    I’ve heard Ak infrastructure is under a bit of strain – perhaps we should import some Aucklanders to the Hutt to help its wop wop status? I’m sure Ak wouldn’t miss 500,000 people. Probably another 500,000 would help out Invercargill too.

  7. Guy Says:

    m-d – really? No way! It’s miles away! May as well be on the other side of the Rimutakas!

  8. Guy Says:

    Apparently the whole population of the world could fit on the Isle of Wight if standing up and all packed close together. I’m sure we could squeeze at least the population of Auckland into the Hutt.

  9. Lianne Says:

    The Auckland firm was Thorpe, Cutter, Pickmere and Douglas. Known for hospitals, got a National Award for the Mangere Sewerage Works, and one for the AMP Building (Queen and Victoria Sts, Akl) by Jack Manning.

  10. Guy Says:

    Anyone that gets a national award for a Sewerage plant gets a hats off from me…

  11. Norma Brannen Says:

    I worked at Thorpe Cutter Pickmere & Douglas 1967 to 1970 in the Wellington office.Remember Avalon being designed and start build even down to the blue/brown colour scheme….head of office was Geoff Long and Boden(can’t quite remember)his name.Ian (something) was next door(Scottish) was the electrical or structural engineer department…

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