Hollywood heavyweight James Cameron is among more than 50 Avatar crew granted permission to arrive back in New Zealand today to resume work on the $1 billion movie sequels.

The film crew touched down in Wellington through a little-known loophole that allows foreigners through our closed borders.

Last week Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford revealed there was a category for border exemptions for foreigners deemed essential to a project of "significant economic value".

The film industry said allowing key film personnel, like producers and cast, into New Zealand would be "huge" as it could trigger thousands of jobs for Kiwis.

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The crew members landed in the capital today, including the upcoming Avatar sequel's producer Jon Landau, who shared the news of their arrival online.

"Made it to New Zealand," he posted on Facebook.

"Our 14-day Government-supervised self-isolation now begins."

Made it to New Zealand. Our 14-day government supervised self-isolation now begins.

Posted by Jon Landau on Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Oscar-winning producer last week announced he would be returning to New Zealand to resume production on the sequel, telling RNZ the crew felt "very comfortable" to be "coming to the safest place in the world".

"We feel very comfortable because of the actions of your Government and also the responsibility the people took to really curb the virus there.

"So we feel we're coming back to the safest place in the world possible, thanks to a team of people that we've worked with. We believe we have a very thoughtful, detailed and diligent safety plan that will keep everybody as safe as possible in these unprecedented times."

Landau said "far fewer people" than they had last year would be flying into New Zealand and only those deemed "essential" to the production would enter the country.

Air New Zealand 787-9, the first commercially operated plane to fly directly from Los Angeles to Wellington, landed early this morning.


Its place of departure has now recorded more than 2900 Covid-linked deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

There are now more than 6 million cases of the coronavirus worldwide - 1.8m in the United States, the country worst hit from the virus.

New Zealand has just one active case of Covid-19, and no new cases recorded in the past nine days.

No Covid patients are in hospital here.

Earlier this year, release dates were announced for the Avatar series: Avatar 2 on December 17, 2021; Avatar 3 in December 2023; Avatar 4 in December 2025; and Avatar 5 in December 2027. Video / 20th Century Fox

The Hollywood crew now face two weeks of quarantine, but the airline crew are exempt from the quarantine rules, Stuff reported.

Twyford earlier said he was granted powers by Cabinet to oversee the special applications that allowed the film crew in on April 21, about a month after New Zealand closed its borders to all non-citizens and residents.

The criteria applicants have to meet include having a talent that can't be met by a Kiwi, involvement in a project that is time-critical and provides "significant economic value" or wider benefit to the economy, Twyford said.

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About 1500 non-New Zealanders have been allowed through the border. The exemptions have mostly been to family members of Kiwis or temporary visa holders, Immigration New Zealand figures show.

About seven or eight international film productions are set to start this year, which would employ up to 4000 people and inject about $400 million into the economy.

Among the international productions were Avatar in Wellington and Amazon's billion-dollar Lord of the Rings series being filmed in Auckland.