Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Key not fazed by Australian Govt's competitive $22m film grant

A giant from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Photo / Supplied
A giant from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Photo / Supplied

Prime Minister John Key is not fazed by the Australian Government's increasing subsidies to film studios such as Disney, saying that New Zealand's subsidy scheme remained competitive.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday that the blockbuster 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea would be made in New South Wales after government agreed to pay producer Walt Disney Film Studios a one-off A$22 million grant.

She also announced increased funding to attract international productions to Australia and a commitment to offset studios' costs if the Australian dollar remained high. A similar grant ensured that another Hollywood production, The Wolverine, was also filmed in Sydney.

Asked whether New Zealand could compete with Australia's offers, Mr Key said: "I think we've got a really good system. Our large budget grants scheme is now well-understood, and it's served New Zealand well."

He said New Zealand did not want to get into a subsidies "race" with Australia, and it was more important to maintain its "competitive, transparent" scheme.

"I don't think we should get too hung up about whether their subsidies are slightly bigger than ours. There's lots of advantages for New Zealand productions."

Mr Key did not know whether New Zealand was considered as a location for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a remake of a movie based on a Jules Verne novel.

New Zealand's Large Budget Screen Production Grant provided a 15 per cent rebate for film and television productions worth more than $15 million. Rebates were also provided for digital and visual effects work done in New Zealand.

Mr Key was lobbied by Fox, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony and MGM to raise these subsidies during an visit to the US in October.

Australia offered a 16.5 per cent rebate for film productions and a 30 per cent rebate for and digital and effects work.

The National-led Government changed employment laws and granted tax breaks amounting to $67 million to Warners in 2010 to ensure that The Hobbit films were made in New Zealand.

Documents released by ministers in Febuary showed that the studio in charge of The Hobbit, New Line Cinema, had received "very attractive incentives" from Australia in exchange for filming The Hobbit in New South Wales.

- NZ Herald

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