Brownlee hits out over 'dreadful' Hobbit dispute

The latest development in the dispute involving actors and producers of The Hobbit is "dreadful" and could cause lasting damage to New Zealand's ability to get future productions here, says Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson released a statement and his wife and film partner Fran Walsh overnight saying the film's producer, Hollywood studio Warner Bros, was concerned at the ongoing dispute and preparing to move production away from New Zealand.

It said representatives from the studio were flying to New Zealand next week to arrange moving filming elsewhere.

Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has been in talks with unions here to try to introduce collective bargaining -- something Sir Peter said was illegal.

The New Zealand Actors' Equity advised its members not to accept work on the two-part adaptation of the JRR Tolkien novel after the filmmakers refused to enter into a union-negotiated agreement.

While the "blacklist" was lifted at the weekend, Sir Peter said the damage to the New Zealand film industry had already been done.

Mr Brownlee said today he had hoped some of the achievements Sir Peter and Ms Walsh had made for New Zealand could have led to a situation where production of The Hobbit was in much better shape.

"It's utterly appalling that they have been treated like this, and it's worse, I think, that we've got an Australian union purporting to represent the industry here in New Zealand," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

"The moment we had the 'don't work' order on The Hobbit issued through the Australian union, we were cast into the uncertainty that a lot of the film world through other countries operates in," Mr Brownlee said.

"It's a dreadful situation and it's going to take a bit of work to even get future productions into good shape."

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