26 Oct 2010

Goverment looking at law change to save Hobbit

7:11 pm on 26 October 2010

ensure that The Hobbit films are made in New Zealand.

Government ministers are to meet with legal advisers on Tuesday night over possible changes to industrial law to try to ensure that The Hobbit films are made in New Zealand.

Doubt has been cast over where the films will be shot following a boycott by actors of the two films until producers agreed to meet and negotiate terms and conditions.

The ban has been lifted by unions in New Zealand and the United States, but executive producer/director Sir Peter Jackson has warned it may not be enough to save the films from going overseas.

Warner Bros is financing the films and says the unions' actions has caused it substantial disruption and damage, forcing it for the first time to consider other locations.

Prime Minister John Key and several senior ministers met for almost two hours with Warner Bros executives in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Key said the meeting went well, but the US studio has serious concerns about the industrial relations situation in New Zealand.

He says ministers will be meeting with lawyers about what possible changes can be made to industrial law, to give an assurance to Warner Bros that if The Hobbit is made in New Zealand it will not be upset by industrial action.

Mr Key said he expects a decision on the films in a day or two and earlier rated the chances of keeping the films in New Zealand as 50:50.

The Prime Minister said with an investment of more than $US500 million at stake, Warner Bros need to be certain that the films can be produced on time.

Earlier, Mr Key said there was no doubt that Warner's faith in making the films in New Zealand had been shaken by industrial problems and that the unions have done some real damage.

Tax concessions

The Opposition Labour Party says it is clear the US studio wants greater government subsidies to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand.

Mr Key earlier said that if it comes to a bidding war, New Zealand will be out of the running, and the Government does not want to be re-negotiating with every single production company that comes to New Zealand.

However, following the meeting with Warner Bros, Mr Key said the Government is willing to have another look at tax concessions but it would only be "around the margins".