Middle-earth not real, by the way

The Hobbit film-makers had to remind the Government that Middle-earth is a fantasy place after a promotional poster used images of the British countryside, not New Zealand.

The poster caused a furore ahead of the film's release last year after it was reported that the majority of the image depicted the landscape outside Newcastle in northeastern England.

The English scene was of extensive farmland with a castle in the background.

On the other side of the poster, the New Zealand side, Gandalf stands on a path on a grassy hillside.

New Zealand capitalises on being the location for filming of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films to entice tourists Down Under.

But documents released under the Official Information Act confirm the poster was a "comp" made up of two separate images.

Prime Minister John Key's office wrote to Sir Peter Jackson's Wingnut films in September to clarify the imagery used in the poster.

"The PM may get asked about this in his post-Cabinet press conference today," the email from Key's press secretary explained.

"It would be useful to know whether the location was Waikato or the UK - I am still getting conflicting reports."

The email subject was "Hobbit poster - Waikato or Corby Crag".

Wingnut films responded the same day to explain that it was both.

"The left hand side is definitely the Waikato, and the right hand side is the UK."

The email went on to clarify that "Middle-earth is a fantasy realm".

"New Zealand does a wonderful job providing the backdrop for a great part of it. Unfortunately, the poster company looked a little further afield for the remainder of the environment."

The poster was completed independently of Warner Bros, the Hollywood studio behind the movies.

The emails are further evidence of the cosy relationship between the Government and the Hobbit film-makers.

Key has been accused of yielding to the film industry after changing labour laws to suit them and supporting million-dollar subsidies to entice projects here.

Another email released recently under the act showed Key's office contacted Wingnut films for information about the number of jobs created by The Hobbit in order to respond to Labour's industrial relations policy announcement.

Sunday Star Times