Fantasy facade set to last

ALL FRONT: The i-Site building is a hive of activity as it gets its Hobbit makeover.
ALL FRONT: The i-Site building is a hive of activity as it gets its Hobbit makeover.

There's an upbeat vibe on the corner of Hetana and Broadway in Matamata as workmen create a small piece of fantasy.

Come next Wednesday, the formerly spiritless i-Site will be transformed into a Lord of the Rings-themed Gatehouse in time for the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington on November 28.

Indeed, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit art director Brian Massey is managing the six-week build to the finest detail.

The construction site yesterday was a hive of tourists, chippies, masons and scaffolding.

Darren Roa's Matamata building company is tasked with delivering the design from Oscar-winner Dan Hennah.

Mr Roa also built the Green Dragon pub in Hobbiton, so he's comfortable with artificially-aged timber and curved entranceways.

There's still challenges, though.

"Brian Massey's got the final say on how it's shaped," he says.

"We'll do it how we think it should be then he'll come in and say, ‘you need to do this to it', and as soon as he does, you know he's right."

The Matamata Public Relations Association-funded structure is a facade covering half the roof and both street frontages, yet it's not flimsy or short-term.

The doorways are cut from macrocarpa, the lamps are solid brass and the thatching is a plastic product produced in South Africa.

Mr Roa expects the $200,000 facade will last for at least 50 years.

It's also a fun place to work, Mr Roa says.

"It's totally different to what you normally do. There's not many roofs you have to do with a big hump in it."

"It's been a good journey. There's a bit of a vibe here. Everyone gets on really well. We're all here to do a job and we have small amount of time, so we just get in and do it."

The team is pulling 60-hour weeks and Sunday shifts to get the job done on time.

And the tourists seem to love it.

Hemal and Varsha Shah aren't huge Tolkien film fans, but the San Francisco couple had to see Hobbiton.

The Gatehouse looks pretty classy too, they reckon.