Urban explorers find abandoned 'town' in the South Island

Urbex Central have been exploring somewhere in the South Island, probably around Lake Benmore.
Urbex Central

Urbex Central have been exploring somewhere in the South Island, probably around Lake Benmore.

An abandoned film set has been uncovered by a group of radical urban explorers.

The set, which is likely to be one of the South Island locations for a mothballed movie about the life of Jesus, was photographed by the Urbex Central group.

Sets for the movie Kingdom Come were built in several locations but the $180 million project hit financial trouble and collapsed in 2009.

Urban explorers have uncovered abandoned buildings in the South Island.
Urbex Central

Urban explorers have uncovered abandoned buildings in the South Island.

A Wellington set was demolished but other sets in the South Island were left to the elements.

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The film's collapse led to a court case and 275 creditors out of pocket by $5.8 million.

But a set still stands waiting, perhaps, for the day when the film crew returns.

Urbex Central posted on the group's website:

The set is likely to be from an abandoned biblical epic that hit financial difficulty.
Urbex Central

The set is likely to be from an abandoned biblical epic that hit financial difficulty.

"Exploring this abandoned movie set in the middle of rural New Zealand countryside was quite the experience, as we wandered through the film set, which was designed to look more like Jerusalem than New Zealand it felt like we were entering some kind of cartoon world. 

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"Everywhere we ventured was artificial and built by film set designers, from the walls and floors to the odd props and building materials that were left lying around and never used."

The movie set appears to be at the Falstone Camping Ground at Lake Benmore, near Twizel, built in 2008.

The overgrown set in the South Island.
Urbex Central

The overgrown set in the South Island.

Sets were dismantled elsewhere but the Lake Benmore site was retained and the company, after the initial collapse, signalled its intention to finish the film.

Kingdom Come was planned as an exploration of the life of Jesus Christ, with Lake Benmore standing in for the Sea of Galilee. The big-budget blockbuster was slated for filming around Wellington and in the South Island but was hit by the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Locations included Central Otago, Oamaru, Motueka and Wellington.

Photographs show a large, overgrown set, designed to resemble an ancient town.
Urbex Central

Photographs show a large, overgrown set, designed to resemble an ancient town.

A casting call went out in 2008 seeking swarthy men and women.

Its director was Dean Wright, the visual effects supervisor who worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and, recently, Creed.

After the movie was mothballed, it was reported that campers were using the set to store boats.

Falstone Creek camp manager Ben Aubrey, in 2011, said campers had mixed views about the set.

Some liked it for the shelter it provided but others detested it because it divided the camp and restricted access to the lake, he said.

"Some of them think it is great ... but others just cannot wait to get rid of it," he said.

The Waitaki District Council, in 2013, said the consents were still live.

Urbex Central unveiled photographs in 2015 of an abandoned film set overlooking Queenstown.

The North Korean prison set atop Deer Park Heights, which no longer offers public access, was built for the 1988 movie The Rescue, about a group of teenagers who infiltrate a prison to rescue their fathers.

Urban exploration gained public exposure here when the group sneaked into the earthquake-damaged Christchurch Cathedral and other red-zoned areas of Christchurch.

No-one was available from Urbex, but the group say they are a loose affiliation of Kiwi explorers.

"Essentially, we go wherever we please throughout New Zealand and overseas, and document our adventures in still and moving images and in words.

"From subterranean tunnels up to the tops of towers and roofs, from abandoned sites through to active sites, we each have our particular haunts.

"We are artists, and it is hard to codify artistic inspiration."

 - Stuff

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