Peters: Hobbit subsidy should be handed back

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 14:55 14/01/2013
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
SHANE WENZLICK/Fairfax NZ
GIVE IT BACK: Winston Peters says The Hobbit subsidy is unfair.

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The number of jobs created by The Hobbit movies was "plucked out of thin air", NZ First leader Winston Peters says.

Last November Prime Minister John Key said the filming of the movies here would create 3000 jobs.

The figure was used to help justify the massive subsidies the film-makers received.

Today Peters released documents he obtained under the Official Information Act which he says show the figure was made up.

Emails between an adviser in Key's office and someone at Peter Jackson's company Wingnut Films, shows the prime minister's office asked for the figure in October.

"The context is if he's asked about Labour's industrial relations policy and how it might impact on the New Zealand film industry he can say something like 'about 3000 people will work on the Hobbit movies - if that policy had been in place then all those people might never have got a job'," the Key adviser wrote.

The response from Wingnut Films was: "Three thousand is a good number."

It said there were 1000 people on payroll at the studio, 1000 at Weta Digital and about 1000 at Weta Workshop, Park Road Post, related companies and casual contractors.

"Then of course there's the flow-on," the response added.

Weeks later Key was quoted as saying "we think around 3000 people have been employed because of The Hobbit".

Peters said no one in Key's office had any idea how many jobs would be created when the subsidies were signed off.

"Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers," he said.

Peters said the documents showed the 3000 job figure had been "plucked out of the air" and he questioned how many of those jobs existed prior to filming.

"How many of them will exist once the final film has premiered and how many of these jobs actually went to New Zealanders?" he asked.

"There is no doubt now that the deal with the movie industry was more about lining pockets than creating jobs."

Peters said other local industries were right to be annoyed they were not getting the same treatment.

"The film industry fat cats deserve millions of dollars in tax breaks because they are on a 'worldwide playing field'," he said.

"Yet somehow that same logic does not apply to our manufacturing industry."

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