17 Apr 2021

Otago hopes to reap benefits from Amazon's Lord of the Rings filming: 'You can't not invest'

6:06 pm on 17 April 2021

The mayor of Central Otago says he hopes his region will see some of the benefits of an Amazon Lord of the Rings series that has begun filming in New Zealand.

Landscape of Otago region viewed from Central Otago Railway bicycle trail in New Zealand

Central Otago - or Middle Earth? Photo: 123rf.com

It was revealed yesterday the US company planned to spend about $650 million on season one of the show alone.

The government has agreed to subsidise at least $100m of that.

Parts of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in central Otago, and district mayor Tim Cadogan is hoping for a return for the television series.

"We haven't had any approach that I'm aware of, but certainly, Central Otago provided quite a number of scenes to the original movies, so it would be quite likely that we would wind up with some film production here.

"[We've] got some fantastic landscapes that lends itself to that production, and that's money coming into the region when we've been hit like everybody else with the pandemic."

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan

Tim Cadogan says Central Otago has some fantastic landscapes that would be fitting for the production. Photo: Supplied

Cadogan said he had no problem with the government putting some of its own dollars into the project.

"For me, it's a long-term investment into a production that's going to make money, long-term in New Zealand, not just while it's being filmed, but beyond that as well because one day the international tourists will come back.

"So I'm pretty supportive of the government's move, you can't not invest."

He added there were short-term benefits to local economies as well, with movie productions providing stimulus into local economies when they move onto a location.

"One of our small towns, Ranfurly, when the Netflix production was being done, the businesses in Ranfurly did extraordinarily well out of it, from the cafes and the hotels and restaurants as you'd expect, down to the hardware store.

"It is those quite tangible, but not easy to realise at the first glance benefits that will accrue from the investment the government's made."

There have been concerns about what it could mean for workers, however.

The Council of Trade Unions warned Amazon's reputation for worker treatment is less than desirable, and is wanting to see more detail on what it will operate in the country.

And actors' union Equity NZ wanted a quota for the number of local performers who getting starring roles in taxpayer-supported international productions.

The union's New Zealand director Denise Roche said the local talent requirement was already in place in Australia, and should be introduced here too.

Local actors need meaningful roles to build their careers, and to become international stars, she said.

"That's how people like Nicole Kidman became such a big star."

As part of the agreement with the government, Amazon will be looking at other business opportunities in the country.

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