20 Dec 2010

Govt was pushed to change law for Hobbit films

9:00 pm on 20 December 2010

New documents confirm that Warner Brothers used the threat of filming The Hobbit elsewhere to get changes made to New Zealand's employment law.

One email obtained under the Official Information Act says Warners needed stability to film The Hobbit in New Zealand but had become concerned about grey areas in the law.

When debate was raging over whether the two films would be made here or not, a blacklisting by actors' unions was blamed for the threat to the films' future.

But Radio New Zealand's political editor has told Checkpoint the email - signed "Peter J" and sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on 18 October - says there was no connection between the blacklist and the choice of production base.

It says Warners were simply looking for reasonable security about the law as it related to independent contractors.

Just 12 days later the law was changed under urgency.

Studio executives wanted to avoid media

Other documents reveal that the Warner executives who came to New Zealand in October to negotiate a deal were worried about being questioned by journalists.

One email from New Line Cinema to Mr Brownlee's office says they needed to enter through the basement because the press would be crawling all over the front.

Radio New Zealand's political editor says the Government provided Crown cars and kept the media at bay when the meetings eventually took place at Premier House.