Should the Government offer incentives to big studios to make films here?
As Hobbit fever builds, the Government is touting job creation as the biggest win from incentives that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies for movie producers.
But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says those jobs did not come cheap - and at tens of thousands of dollars a job, he questions whether the Government should be backing other industries instead.
Taxpayers have reportedly shelled out more than $500 million in the past decade subsidising Hollywood productions like Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit is expected to snare as much as $60 million in subsidies.
Hollywood Studios have pressed the Government to raise the subsidies even higher - and Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson reiterated that call yesterday.
Prime Minister John Key suggested that was unlikely, but said the Cabinet would be looking at extending them to television productions.
The Hobbit had created 3000 jobs, he said.
But Dr Norman said there needed to be a cap on the cost of producing those jobs. If 2000 jobs were created over a year at a cost of $100 million that was a cost of $50,000 a job.
"If the Government is willing to pay $50,000 a job for a Hobbit job, it does beg the question why they won't give any support whatsoever to the manufacturing sector and are happy to see us lose tens of thousands of jobs there and do nothing about it.
"Far more New Zealanders are employed in manufacturing than in either mining or the film industry."
But Mr Key cites other benefits as well.
"It demonstrates to the rest of the world we can make great movies [and] it's the reason someone like James Cameron came to live in New Zealand.
"We are a country that's more than just about producing lamb chops and milk. We do a lot of other things and that's a great way of promoting it."
The Government backed The Hobbit by changing labour laws in line with demands by movie bosses, for which it was heavily criticised at the time.
Mr Key visited studio bosses in Los Angeles recently and his message was that a boost to subsidies was unlikely.
"We need to be competitive - that's the nature of this industry. And we are looking at some potential changes, maybe around television [productions], but I would be very surprised if we would move beyond where we are at in terms of our incentives."
- © Fairfax NZ News