Up to 1000 people are expected to converge on Flock Hill Station near Arthurs Pass this spring to film the climactic battle scene from C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Although the production company denies Flock Hill is a site, yesterday Canterbury contractors, Selwyn District Council staff, and people who own accommodation in the area were convinced they were working hand-in-hand with people in the movie business.
Andrew Adamson, the director of Shrek and Shrek 2, will direct the multimillion-dollar film, the first instalment of the planned Chronicles of Narnia series based on the classic children's books.
According to locals, the spectacular scene for the battle between Peter's army and the White Witch is a series of plateaus that rise up from Broken River, not far from Cave Stream Scenic Reserve.
Yesterday, there was an enormous amount of activity in the area, with up to 20 workers involved in widening a road through the property and turf cutting at a location described as "base camp".
Garry and Heather Temperton, who run Flock Hill Lodge, confirmed that they were accommo-dating people involved with the film, including someone described as the base camp operations manager.
Garry Temperton said he was reluctant to comment in detail because he respected the wishes of those involved to keep a low profile.
"I think there are issues involving safety. They just don't want people traipsing around the site.
"I guess there are also some security issues ... they don't want the whole industry to know what they are up to."
Temperton said that work around the film had been under way in the area for about a month and he was delighted that the company was bringing money into the area.
Flock Hill had been used as a location for the BBC production The Lost World in 2001 and that had been a positive experience.
"We're going to need more staff (at the lodge) in spring," he said.
Economic development officer with Selwyn District Council Ann Jarman said that the council was encouraging the production company to use local businesses and support services and con-tractors from Springfield were among those already employed.
She had also been advised that between 400 and 800 people would require accommodation during filming in October-November.
"We are struggling to supply it," she said.
"Lots are staying in Christchurch and coming up for the day."
It is also understood that Selwyn and Christchurch councils are trying to come to some arrangement regarding the removal and safe disposal of sewage.
Selwyn district planner Dion Douglas said the council had been contacted in regard to earthworks at Flock Hill.
"Because it is not in an area of outstanding landscape and because the scale of earthworks falls under the District Plan requirement of 5000 cubic metres, it doesn't require a resource consent," he said.
Publicist for Lamp Post productions, Ernie Malik, denied Flock Hill was a location.
"The official word from the company is it is not being used as a location at this time," he said.
However, he could confirm there would be filming in the South Island in spring.
He said the film was using a lot of people due to the visual effects involved and filming in and around Auckland would start at the end of the month.
The film, officially titled The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is due for release in December 2005.
It will follow the adventures of four London children, sent to a country home during World War 2 where they find a magic wardrobe leading to a mystical land called Narnia.
The land is ruled by an evil witch and eventually the children join forces with the lion Aslan for a final battle between good and evil.
Malik confirmed that Tilda Swinton was playing the White Witch and James McAvoy had been cast as Mr Tumnus.