October, 2010Tourism pioneer Henry van Asch and family turned out in Queenstown this month to rally in support of a national call to keep the $500 million production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.
A small group of tourism operators, film industry professionals and members of the public rallied in the Village Green.
They were matched by thousands more at Hobbit rallies in filming centres around New Zealand.
Mr van Asch, who co-founded AJ Hackett more than 20 years ago, said keeping the production of the two-part fantasy epic was important for New Zealand and Queenstown.
It would be fantastic if The Hobbit shoot stayed here because The Lord of the Rings sealed New Zealand's international reputation as a beautiful place to visit, he said.
The potential boost to the economy and the regional tourism industry if the prequel stayed was huge, he said.
His partner Caroline Hutchison said more people throughout New Zealand needed to show their support for the movie.
Thousands of jobs were at stake, she said.
"They could take it anywhere else for money but they'll never find the goodwill of New Zealand," she said.
Auckland actor Mark Harrison started the Keep the Hobbit Film Shoot in NZ Facebook page, which called on thousands of people to hit the streets to show their support for production to stay in New Zealand.
Brodan Stephens, 34, was greeted with a cheer at the Queenstown Jazzfest when he strode through the Village Green crowd with a placard, which said union tactics were destroying the film industry.
Mr Stephens, an editor who worked on Lord of the Rings, said the union's tactics were wrong.
"I've worked for Sir Peter Jackson and he looked after us immaculately, he gave us more than we could have asked for."
The Lord of the Rings' trilogy was a boon for tourism, attracting visitors who wanted to see the locations where the film was shot, he said.
Film productions crews were also attracted to New Zealand because the industry was not as heavily unionised as other countries.
He said the unions dived in with the wrong attitude and Kiwis needed to show more support to keep the production on home ground.
"It's a huge thing," he said.
Filming in New Zealand was thrown into doubt when the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance called for a boycott of the films.
The New Zealand Actors' Equity joined the dispute with Peter Jackson's production company and sought collective agreements.
Threats of an actors' boycott passed and reports from the US suggested Warner Bros privately wanted to keep the production in New Zealand.
Source: The Southland Times
Queenstown Property Limited