New Zealand prime minister in ‘Hobbit’ fray

Gov't officials seek resolution to standoff with actors

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, has waded in on the actors’ unions threatened “Hobbit” boycott in an attempt to keep his country’s status as Middle Earth.

“I would be very, very concerned if it moved offshore,” Key told Television New Zealand. “This is a NZ$3 billion ($2.2 billion) industry. It employs a lot of people. It’s great for New Zealand. It’s a great way for marketing New Zealand.”

Key offered his services as a mediator in the dispute and he has already dispatched his economic development minister Gerry Brownlee and arts minister Chris Finlayson who met over the weekend with Jackson.

Frances Walsh, industrial organi z er for New Zealand Actors Equity, welcomed the government involvement and said the union still hoped for a positive result.

“I think it’s great the prime minister wants to help, it would be good to get the parties all in the same room,” Walsh said. “Otherwise all I can say is that we are hopeful of a resolution.”

NZ Actors’ Equity is affiliated with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in Australia. Last week, Jackson accused the Aussie arts union of using “The Hobbit” to “widen it’s membership and power within the New Zealand film industry” and called it a “bully boy”. The union claimed that Jackson and the other “Hobbit” producers would not allow it to negotiated a minimum wage for actors.

The resulting stand off has had Warners doing the number of a number of other locations for the two “Hobbit” pix including as far afield as Eastern Europe.

The loss of the film would be a huge blow to the Kiwi film industry but would also affect tourism given that NZ has used its status as Middle Earth as a lure for travelers, so the government has plenty invested in

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