7 Feb 2013

Govt ordered to release more Hobbit documents

5:14 pm on 7 February 2013

The Ombudsman has ordered the New Zealand Government to release more documents under the Official Information Act relating to the pay saga for actors on the Hobbit films.

In 2010, the Government made changes to labour laws to end a dispute between the film's makers and the Actors' Equity union.

In his final decision on an appeal by Radio New Zealand and the Council of Trade Unions, David McGee has, however, upheld the Government's right to withhold the Crown Law opinion.

Ministers used the opinion to say that it was illegal for actors to negotiate collective conditions of work on the films directed by Sir Peter Jackson.

However, he has directed that another 18 documents, including more emails between New Sir Peter and government advisers, to be released.

Mr McGee's 29-page summary outlines the Government's efforts to keep the information out of the public eye.

Wingnut Films and New Line Cinema also object to the information being released on commercial grounds, but the Ombudsman has rejected their arguments.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said she believes there is another reason why the companies do not want the information released.

"I would say in summary that the release of the information will embarrass them and New Line go as far as to say that it will damage their relationship they have with unions, which I guess is the American unions.

"So we're very interested to see what they were sending to the Government at that time."

Green Party alarmed

The Green Party is alarmed by the efforts the Government has made to prevent the release of information related to The Hobbit dispute.

Green MP Holly Walker says the fact the Government did not disclose that it had certain documents is a worry.

Ms Walker says it is even more alarming that it is proposing to make changes to the Official Information Act to make it more difficult to get commercial information.

She says companies which do business with the Government have to accept their dealings will come under the Official Information Act.