New Hobbiton set there to stay

The new Hobbiton movie set will become forever enshrined in the Matatmata landscape when the film crews leave, with permanent materials being used for a "bigger and better" version of the Middle Earth village than seen in The Lord of the Rings.

Brett Hodge, owner of Matamata Post and Rails, which has supplied the timber for The Hobbit duology since construction began in February, told the Waikato Times that Sir Peter Jackson's company Three Foot Six was building the home of the Hobbits to last.

"What they did last time was build a temporary set, but now it's a permanent set," said Mr Hodge, whose business also supplied the timber for the temporary The Lord of the Rings trilogy Hobbiton set.

The hobbit houses will also have meet to building codes for permanent structures.

"Once the filming is over the set will stay as a permanent tourist attraction."

A permanent set is guaranteed to attract back many diehard The Lord of The Rings fans who have visited Hobbiton from overseas as well as win over new visitors.

It will begin a perpetual celebration around the party tree, on the set, where The Fellowship of the Ring began with Bilbo's disappearance.

The Green Dragon, where the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield awaits Bilbo Baggins ahead of their quest, will include a real thatched roof and the nearby Bywater bridge, made from polystyrene blocks resembling stone for The Lord of the Rings, is being rebuilt in permanent stone.

Mr Hodge, who is Matamata born and bred, was jubilant Prime Minister John Key had brokered a deal with Warner Brothers to keep the Hobbit films in New Zealand after industrial action looked set to push the films offshore.

"It's just so right for us to do it, it's just so good for the community," Mr Hodge said. "When you look at the current economic times a lot of people are just fighting for every dollar. Something like this is just the icing on the cake," he said. "It might be time to invest in a Robert Harris cafe in Matamata."

Vic James, a school principal who has run Lord of the Rings tours since 2001, said the Government had come up with a fantastic deal that would benefit all New Zealanders.

Interest in his tours, which visit locations used in The Lord of the Rings across both North and South Islands, had dropped to about half a dozen people per month since fans were waiting for some certainty around the Hobbit films.

Many fans, who had done the tour three or four times, had put off coming back because they wanted to attend The Hobbit premiere which was slated for 2011 but been put back as directorial, money and then industrial woes stalled the film.

"It will be December 2012 and we are expecting well in excess of 100 people on that tour," Mr James said.

"Yay," wrote one overseas fan on the message boards at The Lord of the Rings fan site, "this has just decided where to spend my next vacation come spring;)" (sic) Another comment, from a fan calling himself Rochendil, said: "Im a brit, I come from Tolkiens birth place and I couldn't be happier that The Hobbit will be filmed in NZ!!!!"

Waikato Times