Tourism operator defiant over Hobbit

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 08:30 13/11/2012

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Golden Bay tourism operator Reg Turner is refusing to stop using The Hobbit to promote his Song of the Tui lodge in the Aorere Valley, despite warnings by Tourism New Zealand.

Turner's website says his lodge overlooks "stunning mountain scenery, as seen in the films The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit".

He said he wanted to include something similar in a tourist map produced by the Golden Bay Promotion Association, but the non-profit organisation said he could not reference The Hobbit without approval.

"I was not allowed to use those words. Our own promotions society is failing to take advantage of the best promotion we could ask for," he said.

Turner also got a call from Nelson Tasman Tourism chief executive Lynda Keene, who said he needed to take the reference to the film off his website.

"I'm waiting for somebody from Warner Bros to come and tell me to stop. Nobody has jumped on me. I'm not being sued. Why would they make such a storm over an issue like that?

"Everybody's using it. I'm entitled to my own decisions to promote my own business," he said.

Nelson Tasman Tourism has received approval from Warner Bros to use the tagline "Have a Hobbit's Holiday" in a Nelson Tasman marketing promotion, with plans to use Peter Jackson's follow-up to The Lord of the Rings as an opportunity to attract visitors to the area.

A Brightwater wine label is also cashing in on the top of the south's Hobbit status, with Winelord vineyard making and selling Middle-earth Wine.

Middle-earth Wine marketing director Ryan O'Connell said it took more than a year to get the rights to use Middle-earth on the label.

Turner does not have approval to use The Hobbit to promote his business, but he does not care.

"Taxpayers' money has been used to subsidise all these concessions given to Warners. I'm a taxpayer. What do I get? How can a film company start dictating to our citizens how they can handle their product?"

He said The Hobbit "could be the best opportunity we'll ever get", and he was not going to let it pass by without jumping on the marketing bandwagon.

"The film company just rented a bit of land here to make a movie. We own the land. I believe for any big company such as Warners to turn around and tell us we can't do this and we can't do that is an insult to our integrity and our independence."

Tourism New Zealand sought approval from Warner Bros for every aspect of its $10 million "Middle-earth" marketing campaign - even checking with the film studio over issues that did not directly concern it.

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Documents, released under the Official Information Act, revealed the extent of the company's sway over the government agency's "100 % Pure Middle-earth" marketing strategy, as well as the influence of Peter Jackson's Wingnut Films.

Tourism New Zealand spokesman Chris Roberts said Warner Bros held the rights for The Hobbit, so any references had to be cleared with the company.

- The Nelson Mail

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