Key denies Hobbit job numbers made up

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
SHANE WENZLICK/Fairfax NZ
GIVE IT BACK: Winston Peters says The Hobbit subsidy is unfair.
John Key
Fairfax NZ
JOHN KEY: "We think around 3000 people have been employed because of The Hobbit".

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Prime Minister John Key has defended the number of jobs he claimed The Hobbit films created - after NZ First leader Winston Peters said the 3000 figure was "plucked out of thin air".

In November, Key said filming The Hobbit movies in New Zealand created about 3000 jobs.

Documents obtained by Peters under the Official Information Act bring the accuracy of the figure into question.

An adviser in Key's office emailed someone at Peter Jackson's Wingnut Films in October to ask how many jobs The Hobbit had created.

"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 emailed.

Wingnut Films' response was: "3000 is a good number".

There were 1000 people on the studio payroll, 1000 at Weta Digital and about 1000 at Weta Workshop, Park Road Post, related firms and casual contractors. "Then of course there's the flow-on."

Weeks later Key was quoted as saying, "We think around 3000 people have been employed because of The Hobbit". He used the figure to justify massive subsidies the film-makers received.

Yesterday, Peters said the 3000 jobs figure had been "plucked out of thin air" and no-one in the prime minister's office knew 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 questioned how many of the jobs existed before or after filming. "The film industry fat cats deserve millions of dollars in tax breaks because they are on a ‘worldwide playing field', yet somehow that same logic does not apply to our manufacturing industry."

A spokeswoman for Key said 3000 was the number of people who worked directly on the Hobbit. There were other flow-on effects such as 6750 domestic flights, 93,000 bed nights, 1800 rental cars, 1650 work vehicles, $9 million on construction materials and $1.5m on food suppliers.

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