Kiwi Actors Equity denies immigration consultation delayed The Hobbit

Published:  27 Feb at 6 PM
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A press release by Equity, New Zealand’s actors’ trade union, denies allegations that its consultancy programme with NZ immigration caused delays to filming.

Before filming began on The Hobbit, the prequel to the highly successful Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, fans worldwide were disturbed by reports that filming might be delayed due to immigration hitches involving a blacklist of overseas actors. Threats were even made to relocate the entire production to Australia.

The press release gives further details of the row between immigration, the NZ government, Equity and NZ immigration, with Equity confirming it had attempted to get fair wages and working conditions for its NZ employees. The trade union was also active in attempting to ensure that mostly New Zealand actors were employed.

The immigration process at the time supported employment of NZ workers and performers, with Equity supporting their working rights. However, the movie’s producers arranged anti-Equity protests, resulting in the government promising huge financial concessions to Warner Bros and rewriting immigration rules to undermine workers’ rights to a fair salary and other protection.

According to the press release, the watering down of employment law enacted by the government in order to retain the production will result in productions having carte blanche to bring in non-New Zealand performers without restrictions, thus taking jobs from local performers. The dispute, it seems, has reduced the employment chances of New Zealand’s professional actors at a time when the county’s amazing scenery and efficient facilities are attracting more productions to its shores.
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