One of New Zealand's most recognisable tourist attractions, the Hobbiton Movie Set, will close its gates to prevent Covid-19 spread - leaving hundreds out of work.
As a result of "drastic restructure" of the business to cope with the closure, it has been proposed that 241 permanent, fixed and casual employees at the Matamata business will be made redundant.
In a statement released today, Hobbiton CEO Russell Alexander said following the Government's announcement at midday that New Zealand was now at alert level two for coronavirus risk, the Hinuera movie set would temporarily close.
"This is a matter of public health and we felt we had a duty of care to our staff, to any visitors still coming to Hobbiton, to our wider community and New Zealand to minimise travel into the district and exposure to Covid-19," Alexander said.
The closure was preceded by a massive drop-off in visitors to Hobbiton as a result of travel restrictions, the statement outlines.
This has led to proposals for a drastic restructure which will affect nearly all of Hobbiton's 266 staff.
Aside from the 241 redundancies a small team of 25 people will remain at Hobbiton to ensure the set is maintained and ready for when Hobbiton can reopen.
"It is with deep regret that we even consider closing the site and making any of our
employees redundant, especially in this current economic environment," Alexander said.
"These decisions have, by far, been the hardest thing we've had to do since Hobbiton Movie Set was established. For a place that has brought so much joy to many, many people, this is a very sad time.
"This is a temporary measure until we can reopen Hobbiton and regenerate from there."
Hobbiton Movie Set's workforce will be consulted on the proposal over the next week.
"If we do proceed with this proposed restructure, we will do whatever we can to find alternative work for our employees and contractors and support them through career coaching services and our Employee Assistance Programme," Alexander said.
Alexander said their intention was to ramp up services at Hobbiton Movie Set as
soon as they can reopen for tours and when tourist numbers start to increase again.
"We will, without doubt, turn to any affected staff who already know how we operate for any reappointment opportunities."