The filmmaker's intervention in the Wellington mayoral race, part of an effort to block a housing plan, was unheard-of in a country where money and fame are usually wielded lightly.

Peter Jackson, the film director behind the Lord of the Rings series, is a towering figure in his native New Zealand, admired as both a down-to-earth titan of the box office and a one-man income generator for the country's moviemaking and tourism industries.

But Jackson now finds himself at the centre of a debate over how he has exerted that influence. This week, he helped catapult to victory a mayoral

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