Warner Bros sought job law change to film The Hobbit in NZ
Warner Brothers used the threat of filming The Hobbit movies elsewhere to gain changes to New Zealand's employment laws, it was reported tonight.
An email obtained under the Official Information Act showed the production company wanted "stability" to film the movies in New Zealand and was worried about "grey areas" of employment law, Radio New Zealand reported.
The government secured the movies in October by an urgent amendment that prevented independent contractors from claiming entitlements as employees, as well as an agreement to increase the tax concession for big screen productions.
The report said the email was signed "Peter J" – apparently director Sir Peter Jackson – and was sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee, who was involved in the negotiations with Warner Brothers.
It said there was no connection between union action against The Hobbit movies and choice of location, which contradicted government statements at the time that said Warner Brothers was concerned about strife caused by the blacklisting of the movies because of a row over collective pay conditions.
Union opposition was withdrawn after an outcry from New Zealanders who would lose their jobs if the movies were not made here.
The report also said Warner Brothers executives who came to Wellington to negotiate the deal were worried about being questioned by journalists.
Another email to Mr Brownlee's office said they wanted to enter through the Beehive basement to avoid the media.
The negotiations took place in Prime Minister John Key's official residence, Premier House, with the media excluded.