Movie boost for Nelson, Golden Bay

MICHELLE SUTTON
Last updated 13:00 28/11/2012

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The Hobbit movie has already been a precious boost for the Nelson-Tasman region, businesses say.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which premieres in Wellington tonight, features scenes from Nelson and Tasman.

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency and Nelson Tasman Tourism say indirect benefits will continue for years to come, with the increased exposure, but some Nelson and Golden Bay businesses say a direct payoff has already been seen.

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said he was unable to put a dollar value on the benefit to the region, but some of that could be seen when the film crew worked in the area in February and March this year, buying goods and services and hiring locals.

Several Golden Bay and Nelson businesses told The Nelson Mail the town was amazed at the financial benefits already generated from The Hobbit film crew operating in the area.

"It's created other film companies to look at Golden Bay and they are looking at literally coming into the Bay and doing other filming here ... 20 years ago we would never have thought that we would be on the world map with production companies, it's amazing," said Golden Bay motel owner Paul Crockford, of Mohua Motels.

The film crew stayed at the motel, taking up all 20 units, for almost a week while filming in March. They also booked out another Golden Bay motel while several Nelson motels were also used, he said.

"I have estimated the district had a $100,000 turnover in two weeks, that's just in food, accommodation, and locals getting hired for knowledge and serves in the area," Mr Crockford said.

He was unable to provide information about further film work that was likely following on from The Hobbit until the movie was released about the middle of next year, he said.

"Everyone's trying hard to help each other out and help the movies, whereas in other countries I think they are finding they are stumbling up against a block."

Cape Farewell Horse Treks owner Gail McKnight said she sold a Clydesdale horse to The Hobbit film crew, "for a good amount", which she understood was used as wizard Gandalf's second horse in the movie.

"We have been involved in a few other bits but we can't say until the film's out," she said.

Reid Helicopters Nelson was another business involved with The Hobbit earlier this year and owner Toby Reid said the future spinoffs were massive.

"An example of that is The Lord of The Rings movie, filmed in area in 1999. It is still bringing people to the region, looking at sites in the movie."

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His father, Bill Reid, was the personal scout for Peter Jackson on The Lord of The Rings movies when he flew him to pick locations used in the film.

On the back of that, today he was still taking a couple of visitors a week to those locations in the film, he said.

Nelson's Eyebright store owner Peter Owen said the movie spinoff was "profound for us", drumming up about $20,000 worth of work over eight days, supplying artificial foliage and flowers, hundreds of gourds, a vegetable, and dried medicinal herbs, both of which were used in Hobbiton.

Nelson Tasman Tourism international marketing manager Loren Heaphy said the movie buzz in the region was just the start of financial spinoffs as it attracted more film crews and tourists following on from the success of The Hobbit.

A co-ordinated approach was being taken by Tourism New Zealand, Nelson Tasman Tourism and local operators to maximise opportunities, she said.

"The benefits are pretty big. To us The Hobbit is a message encouraging tourists to visit the region."

Nelson Tasman Tourism would host eight international media at the World of Wearable Arts Museum and showcasing the region this week after the movie premiere, she said.

THE HOBBIT OPENING DATE

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opens in New Zealand cinemas on December 12.

It is the first film in a Hobbit trilogy, based on J R R Tolkien's 1937 novel of the same name, which was the prequel to the Lord of The Rings trilogy.

- The Nelson Mail

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