Two hurt in Hobbit fire - but you can't know why

TOP SECRET: Security was tight after a fire injured two workers at Sir Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios in Miramar.
TOP SECRET: Security was tight after a fire injured two workers at Sir Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios in Miramar.

Secrecy surrounding filming of The Hobbit is so tight that even a fire crew called to an explosion at Sir Peter Jackson's Wellington studio has been gagged.

The Fire Service has confirmed it has signed a confidentiality agreement with both the studio and Weta Workshop.

Although not in the habit of doing so, it made the move because of the digital film industry's value to the city.

Two people were injured yesterday in the explosion in one of the workshops at Stone Street Studios in Miramar, where extensive shooting for The Hobbit is taking place. They were taken to Wellington Hospital with minor injuries.

A spokeswoman said the explosion did not affect filming.

Kilbirnie fire station would not provide any more details about the explosion, including what might have caused it, because that would breach confidentiality agreements all crew members had signed with both the studio and Weta Workshop.

The Fire Service's operations and training director, Paul McGill, said the organisation did not usually sign confidentiality agreements.

"However, the personnel at the Kilbirnie Fire Station, like most Wellingtonians, are very conscious of the importance of the ground-breaking digital film industry to the city."

The Fire Service was comfortable with an agreement being signed on this occasion, and Mr McGill said it had led to a good working relationship between the organisation and the people at the film studios.

"It does not set any precedent for our work with other companies or organisations."

A Kilbirnie station officer, who would not be named, said the agreements were signed several months ago, before filming began.

"We went on site to familiarise ourselves with the layout of the complex and we signed that, and ... we are bound by it."

The agreement was the standard form signed by all visitors to Stone Street Studios, he said.

The agreement was unusual but the station had agreed to adhere to it because it did not stop the organisation accessing the studio in an emergency, he said.

"In an urgent situation we can take whatever action we see fit."

The Labour Department confirmed it would investigate the incident. The fire officer said the confidentiality agreement would not hamper that investigation, as Stone Street Studios had agreed to supply the department with the Fire Service's assessment of what had happened.

A publicist for The Hobbit, Ceris Price, said no other emergency services had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

"It's because [Kilbirnie fire station staff] come on to the lot regularly to do business."

The confidentiality clause covered "anything that's happening on the lot", she said.

Government departments and some other businesses asked visitors to sign similar agreements. "It's kind of standard practice."

The Dominion Post