PM is hopeful hobbits will stay in New Zealand

2010-10-11 07:48

Wellington – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was hopeful a union row threatening to force Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies out of the country could be resolved within a week.

Key said Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee met those involved in the dispute late last week and was cautiously optimistic progress was being made in the tense negotiations.

“I wouldn’t want to predict an outcome but we’re hopeful that we will get the right result, that those Hobbit movies are made in New Zealand,” Key told reporters.

“But there’s still ongoing, quite tense, negotiations ... it needs to be resolved reasonably quickly, I’m hopeful in the next week or so.”

Jackson has threatened to move his latest of the Tolkien saga from New Zealand over alleged “bully boy” tactics from unions, prompting allegations from actors that workers on his sets are being short-changed.

The Hollywood studios backing Jackson have said they are scouting alternative locations because of the dispute, with Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and eastern Europe all potentially in the frame.

But the union, NZ Actors Equity, has called for an international boycott of “The Hobbit” after accusing producers of refusing to recognise its right to negotiate minimum standards for its members.

Jackson says the union, which is linked to Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, is unfairly targeting his production as part of a campaign to muscle in on the New Zealand film industry.

The Hobbit has already been delayed by financial woes at studio MGM, prompting director Guillermo del Toro to quit the project in May.

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