Politics

Lord of the Rings from Amazon Studio. Photo / Amazon

An argument from Amazon to bypass the usual MIQ process to bring their Lord of the Rings production team to New Zealand has been rejected by the government.

The multibillion-dollar company has raised the idea of ​​securing hotels, vacation homes and rental properties to use for their own private seclusion.

But this idea, raised in August last year, was rejected by the government.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment (MIBE) – which manages the MIQ system – said the government told Amazon it was focusing on using the facilities existing, due to the need for enveloping services required for MIQ.

The spokesperson said it was never a “formal proposal,” but rather an idea raised by Amazon executives with MBIE.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government had not received an official request from the company.

It is understood that the government has received numerous requests for custom MIQ installations over the past 18 months.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield at their press conference in Parliament in Wellington.  Photo / Mark Mitch
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield at their press conference in Parliament in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitch

Currently, about 10 percent of MIQ slots are reserved for groups and workers essential to supporting the economy.

The Lord of the Rings crew was part of that cohort – some 271 people, including 177 crew members and 94 family members, benefited from the program.

On top of that, Amazon – one of the most profitable companies in the world – is entitled to a production discount of up to 25 percent from the government.

Reuters reports that the rebate amounts to $ 162 million.

“The deal with Amazon (…) generates local jobs and creates work for local businesses,” Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said in April.

But, just four months later, Amazon announced that it would be filming its second season of The Lord of the Rings show in the UK.

In response, the government withdrew 5 percent of the discount it had offered – worth about $ 30 million.

“New Zealand’s move to the UK aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studios across the UK,” Amazon said at the time.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company was grateful to New Zealand’s film industry, the government, for their “tremendous collaboration.”

Although disappointed, Nash said it was a “multinational corporation that made a business choice.”

Filming on the set of Lord of the Rings for Amazon Studios in West Auckland.  Photo / Supplied
Filming on the set of Lord of the Rings for Amazon Studios in West Auckland. Photo / Supplied

A spokesperson for the Film Commission said Amazon had not raised the fact that they had not been given the green light for a private MIQ program as a reason to move production to the UK.

“Access to MIQ has been and continues to be a challenge for all productions.

“The NZFC is working closely with the government to keep the film industry going at this time and also to give international productions confidence that New Zealand remains a viable and attractive place to shoot.”

The Lord of the Rings TV show is said to be the most expensive TV show ever made. The five-season production is worth at least US $ 1 billion.

Its production, which was centered in Auckland, involves some 800 cast and crew, many of them Kiwis.

Filming and production for the first seasons took place in New Zealand – starting in February of last year and ending last month.

But due to the Covid -19 outbreak last year, production has been temporarily suspended.

In March – before New Zealand’s borders closed – some members of the production team left the country to return home, according to the Herald.

They returned soon after to continue production.

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