Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Hobbit critics will walk red carpet

Labour's criticism in 2010 earned them the nickname "Hobbit-haters" from National MPs. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour's criticism in 2010 earned them the nickname "Hobbit-haters" from National MPs. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Three Labour MPs, including its leadership team of David Shearer and Grant Robertson, will attend the red-carpet premiere of The Hobbit tomorrow despite strong criticism over the deal to appease the movie's makers, Warner Bros.

Labour's leader and deputy leader, and Rongotai MP Annette King, have accepted invitations to the premiere in Wellington - joining six National Party Cabinet ministers, including the four who negotiated with Warner Bros executives in 2010 over tax breaks and an employment law change.

Labour's criticism in 2010 earned them the nickname "Hobbit-haters" from National MPs, who claimed that Warner would film it elsewhere if the Government didn't move to change the law.

"The Government issued them invitations because we think this is a celebration for New Zealand," said Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Robertson denied it was hypocritical to attend the event after criticising the deal with Warner Bros which included a change to employment law to set out the legal status of film workers as contractors rather than employees.

"I remain staunchly opposed to the legislation passed by the National Government in this matter. We thought it was wrong and unnecessary and still do.

"But I've never been opposed to the movie or the story or anything like that, just to the way the law was changed."

Mr Robertson said it was appropriate for him to attend - he was the MP for Wellington Central and The Hobbit had employed a large number of people in his electorate.

The Green Party also criticised National at the time and a spokeswoman said none of its MPs were going.

National Party ministers going to the premiere included its Hobbit team of Prime Minister John Key, Gerry Brownlee, Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce.

All four were involved in negotiations at Premier House with Warners' executives in October 2010 where the law change and a tax break package were hammered out.

Other National ministers going included Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson, who in 2010 was the Minister of Labour to put through an employment law change requested by Warners, and associate tourism minister Chris Tremain.

Mr Key has repeatedly defended the deal, arguing the movies had valuable spin-offs for tourism.

Warner Bros is expected to spend about $100 million marketing the movie. Mr Key said that was valuable promotion for New Zealand.

Mr Key said the Government's investment in the Hobbit film had been worthwhile.

He said up to 3,000 people had been employed in some way during the course of the production of the film.

"It demonstrates that we can make great movies - I think it's the sort of reason someone like James Cameron has come to live down in New Zealand - we're a country that's more than about producing just lamb chops and milk."

In 2010, the stoush was exacerbated by the Actors Unity proposing a "blacklist" on the Hobbit movies to push for a collective contract - a blacklist which was subsequently lifted. Actors Equity has said it was a scapegoat after official papers showed Mr Brownlee had advised that the real concern of Warners was the employment law change rather than a blacklist.

- NZ Herald

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