Jackson: I feel enormous gratitude
Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have thanked the Government for introducing new laws to encourage movie bosses to shoot The Hobbit in New Zealand.
In a statement this afternoon, Jackson said he was grateful to the government for deciding to introduce the new legislation which would give "everyone in the film industry certainty as to their employment status."
"This clarification will provide much needed stability and reassurance for film workers as well as investors from within New Zealand and overseas," he said.
He also thanked Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema for their continued commitment to New Zealand, fans, and those in the industry.
"I feel enormous gratitude to the film technicians, actors and fans who came out in support of making these films in New Zealand. To the thousands of people who took the time to write and let us know they were with us - thank you. It made all the difference."
PARLIAMENT GOES INTO URGENCY
Parliament will be rushed into urgency today to pass the Government's controversial "Hobbit" law but Labour and the Greens say it is a step too far.
Prime Minister John Key announced last night after two days of tense negotiations with studio executives that the long-awaited Hobbit movies would be filmed in New Zealand.
But the Government's negotiating team, which was led by Mr Key and included senior Government ministers Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce and Chris Finlayson, was forced to make concessions to keep the movies here including an extra $35 million and a change to labour laws clarifying the status of film workers as contractors.
There will also be $10 million from the Government to market the film after the negotiators agreed to New Zealand tourism material piggybacking on the DVDs and other material. All up, the cost to taxpayers will top $100 million for the two movies to be made here.
But Mr Key said the movies were the biggest-ever made and New Zealand could not afford to lose the shoot.
If the Hobbit had gone offshore, the local movie industry would have been in peril.
"[This] keeps us on the world stage as a great place to make movies," he told National Radio this morning.
Overseas media have described The Hobbit as possibly the biggest movie franchise ever and Mr Key said the amount being spent on the films was "off the scale" even for Hollywood.
But the Government is being accused of selling out to a foreign corporate and Labour and the Greens say they will oppose today's law change.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard said it was good The Hobbit would be made here.
"But it's at a hefty price that will cost all New Zealanders, especially those whose employment depends on contracts and work in, or close to, the film industry."
Mr Key said last night the Government had the numbers to get the legislation passed, with support from ACT and United Future. There would be discussions with other parties today.
But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said New Zealand was prostituting its industrial laws to satisfy a multinational corporation.
Mr Key disagreed.
"There was no going forward without this."
Executives from New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers flew into New Zealand earlier this week to discuss pulling the project to another location offshore, with other countries offering lucrative inducements for them to abandon New Zealand in their favour.
The deal struck rocky ground after New Zealand actors, under the banner of their Australian body the Media, Entertainment & Artists' Alliance, issued a worldwide call for actors to boycott the movie because they had been refused the right to bargain collectively.
The notice was withdrawn after a public backlash and the union promised there would be no further disruption. But Mr Key said the studios placed no stock in that assurance.
CTU boss Helen Kelly today accused the Government of "opportunistically" using the Hobbit fracas to slip through labour law changes in the face of demands from an overseas corporate.
It would allow film companies to deprive workers on basic rights including sick leave and holiday pay.
"They will be denied employment rights and not be able to challenge that."
Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton, cast as dwarves in The Hobbit, were "delighted" to hear the movie would be shot in New Zealand.
Hadlow said the movie would provide jobs for thousands of people, no matter what those opposed to the deal said.
"The most important thing to come out of it is that these two films are now going to be shot in New Zealand. That will have a positive impact," he told Radio New Zealand.
Hambleton said it it was a "massive" thing for the country.
"It's great for New Zealand, let's look forward to making great movies and get on with it. But let's also have some analysis of what's happened so various professions can move forward."
Sir Peter Jackson is yet to comment on the deal struck between the Government and Warner Bros.
His spokesman said today there would be "nothing from Peter this morning".
"We've got two films to make and we're five weeks behind on pre-production thanks to recent events," he said.
A statement may come later in the day, he said.
Screen Production and Development Association chief executive Penelope Borland said it would start negotiating with Actors' Equity on minimum terms and conditions for actors.
Weta co-founder Sir Richard Taylor said the news The Hobbit would be filmed here marked a "wonderful day for the New Zealand film industry ... To the Hon John Key, Warners, Peter [Jackson], Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens] - thank you!"
Interactive timeline: The battle over The Hobbit
- with TOM HUNT AND JOHN HARTEVELT and KIRSTY JOHNSTON