Kingdom Come movie set dismantled

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2011
BEEN AND GONE: Dismantling and removing the Kingdom Come movie set is likely to cost taxpayers about $70,000.
BEEN AND GONE: Dismantling and removing the Kingdom Come movie set is likely to cost taxpayers about $70,000.

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The rotting set for the trouble-plagued Kingdom Come movie has been dismantled and removed by the Defence Force as it prepares to dispose of land on Wellington's Miramar Peninsula.

The work is likely to cost taxpayers about $70,000 but some of that may be recouped from those involved with the production, a Defence Force spokesman said.

The $180 million Kingdom Come film about the life of Jesus was scheduled to be shot in early 2009 before financial problems forced it to be abandoned.

The collapse of the film left 275 creditors out of pocket by $5.8m, the High Court at Wellington was told in November.

However, a third party funder put up $1m for creditors to share. In return, the company got a one-year moratorium on further debt enforcement while directors tried to get the project back on track.

Stephen Brown, lawyer for production company South Vineyard, said removing the set was "irrelevant" to the moratorium plan.

"The intention hasn't changed. The work continues to get the appropriate funding in place to get things up and moving ahead."

The set was built in late 2008. By the time it was pulled down, the walls of a courtyard, made from spray-painted polystyrene tiles, had collapsed, and taggers had defaced sections with paint.

"The company has deliberately decided to abandon that set. It was much too lavish for what was required and we can do the same thing on an indoor set," Mr Brown said. "We handed it back to the defence department, which owns it, and they are removing the structures on the site."

Defence Force director of housing and property Peter Bollmann said removal work started just before Christmas at an estimated cost of $70,000.

A meeting last year between the Defence Force and about 17 companies was held to identify what each owned at the site, what they wanted back, and who would pay for dismantling the set, Mr Bollmann said.

"Nobody agreed to contribute to the cost but it became a bit of a health and safety issue ... it was a very large, lightweight structure which we thought had to come down."

The Defence Force was working through a process to dispose of land on Miramar Peninsula. Who would gain eventual ownership of the land was unclear, Mr Bollmann said.

It has previously been reported that discussions are under way between the Crown and several organisations, including Wellington City Council and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust.

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Land could be offered to the trust as part of its Treaty settlement, some could end up as part of the council's green belt, and historic gun emplacements on the peninsula may be restored and opened to the public.

"But we don't want to do it with this big bloody mess on it," Mr Bollmann said.

The failure of the movie had made the Defence Force cautious about leasing the film set site, which has been successfully used by other productions in the past.

"When people start getting burned by one operator, when someone else comes along we are left thinking do we really want to get into this game again?"

Mr Bollmann said the Defence Force was owed about $40,000 in unpaid rent from Kingdom Come, which it was chasing through the courts.

- The Dominion Post

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