Was that the Nashing of teeth we heard, as Amazon announced our sweeteners weren’t enough to keep Tolkien blockbuster in NZ?

While the PM and her team were setting out their programme to reconnect us with the rest of the world, Amazon was advising the government of its plans to pull the plug  – both from our film-making facilities and from the government’s generous subsidies.

And whereas yesterday’s “Latest from the Beehive” posts included two speeches and a press statement on (eventually) the reopening of our borders, today’s posts include news of the Government’s response to Amazon’s withdrawal.

Amazon’s decision was reported more than 12 hours ago by The Guardian (which wasn’t necessarily the first to break the news).

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.


The government was informed of Amazon’s decision to pull out of New Zealand on Thursday. The economic development minister Stuart Nash said it was disappointing, especially for the local film industry.

Maybe our disinclination to reconnect with the world just yet was a factor in Amazon’s decision to disconnect.

The Guardian says:

One additional factor is the strict Covid policies that continue to operate in New Zealand, which Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said would mean the country’s borders would effectively remain closed until the end of the year.

Any time a member of the cast or crew left the country – roughly half the cast is from the UK – they would have to quarantine for 14 days and there are limits on how many people can leave the production at any given time.

It looks like a big setback the wellbeing for our film industry.

But Nash has gone on the front foot, as you can see from the most recent posting (at time of writing) of press releases on The Beehive website:

Latest from the Beehive

The Lord of the Rings season two

The New Zealand Government will no longer proceed with part of the deal to support the Lord of the Rings TV Series, following the decision by Amazon Studios to shift production of future seasons to the United Kingdom.

Other recent Beehive posts tell us …

Prison Kapa Haka a great success

After six weeks of performances across New Zealand prisons, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has congratulated Tongariro Prison as the overall winner of the 2021 Hōkai Rangi Whakataetae Kapa Haka.

 Opening comments for Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum

Today we will be discussing some of the big questions facing us as we continue to protect New Zealanders against COVID-19, while at the same time preparing to gradually and safely reopen to the world.

Government sets out plan to reconnect New Zealanders to the world

The Government will use the second half of 2021 to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible and safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated New Zealanders in order to prepare for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

Speech to Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum

I want to start by thanking Professor Skegg and your group of experts for the important scientific contribution you have made to this discussion and the Government’s decision making about reopening our borders.

Big tick for Taranaki taonga species

Projects aimed at protecting taonga species, including kiwi, kokako and hihi, are among a number of Taranaki-based initiatives receiving a boost through the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says.

Community Housing Providers to get upfront funding to deliver new builds faster

Community Housing Providers (CHP) will now to be able to access up-front funding in the early stages of new build developments to help bring on more public housing at pace, the Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced following a roundtable of CHP leaders in Wellington last night.

By now the government’s border-opening programme has become the subject of nation-wide discussion and debate through other media.

Point of Order today will focus, rather, on the announcement that the government will no longer proceed with part of the deal to support the Lord of the Rings TV Series.

That’ll show ’em, eh?

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said he was disappointed by the decision.

“Amazon Studios advised that post-production work on Season One will continue in New Zealand till June 2022. However, Season Two will be filmed in the UK as part of a strategy by the studio to expand its production space and consolidate its footprint in the UK.

“I am enormously proud of the New Zealand screen sector. The Amazon Studios’ decision in no way reflects the capabilities of our local film industry or the talents of the people who work in it. This is a multi-national company that has made a commercial choice.

“With Season One, the New Zealand screen sector has proven its reputation for offering a world-class workforce, globally competitive sound stages and post-production facilities, and a safe destination with outstanding scenery and friendly and welcoming people.”

Nash then got down to business:

“The previously agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Amazon Studios will no longer proceed in its current form. The five percent incentive previously offered on top of the standard 20 percent rebate for all international film productions is withdrawn.”

Amazon Studios – like every other international production – is eligible for a 20 per cent rebate on its qualifying production expenditure in this country, under the terms of the International Screen Production Grant.

Amazon Studios’ qualifying local expenditure is estimated to total around $663.74 million so it could potentially be eligible for a $132 million rebate under the 20 per cent rule.

“The international film sector is incredibly competitive and highly mobile. We have no regrets about giving this production our best shot with government support. However, we are disappointed for the local screen industry. Work will continue across government on ways to keep supporting the sector,” Stuart Nash said.

Which means work will continue to find other financial lures to bring the movie moguls to this country.

Now let’s check out The Guardian’s account of what has happened.

The newspaper  says Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world.

But whereas we Kiwis like to believe this country is the land of the Hobbit, the descendants of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien have other ideas:

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

Production will continue in New Zealand until June next year with the premiere of the first series, which has reportedly cost $465m, scheduled for 2 September next year.

The Guardian notes that the production has not been without controversy in New Zealand.

Earlier this year, the government had to defend its deal with Amazon Studios following criticism that it was ‘bending over backwards’ for one of the richest companies in the world, by offering it multimillion dollar rebates to bring its production to the country.

The UK offers attractive rebates for TV series that cost more than $1m an episode to shoot and is the home of many high-profile Amazon productions.

The New Zealand Film Commission chief executive David Strong said the Amazon production had employed nearly 2,000 New Zealanders.

“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.”

 Strong said the Studio’s departure will open up avenues for other international productions to shoot in New Zealand.




Prisoners with a flair for kapa haka are among the beneficiaries of the govt’s latest efforts to promote our wellbeing

Our Beehive bulletin

Enhancing the wellbeing of people banged up in our prisons was the subject of one Beehive announcement yesterday.  Enhancing the wellbeing of farm animals was the subject of another.  And enhancing the wellbeing of all of us by protecting us from terrorists was the subject of a statement from the PM.

Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford – more grandly – had the welfare of the whole world in his considerations when he addressed a workshop on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

From our monitoring of The Beehive website we learned –

  • Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis announced the joyous news that – for the first time – all 18 prisons in New Zealand will be invited to participate in an inter-prison kapa haka competition.
  • Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor brought less joyous news to some farmers when he announced the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years. He acknowledged the economic benefit some farmers get from the trade, but I also noted that “support of it is not universal within the sector.”
  • The PM issued a stocktake undertaken by France and New Zealand which shows “significant global progress” under the Christchurch Call towards its goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. 
  • Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford addressed a workshop on lethal autonomous weapons systems, explaining that New Zealand has strongly supported the development of 11 Guiding Principles by the Group of Governmental experts on this issue. He provided a snapshot of what New Zealand has done on this issue and where we stand now.
  • Racing Minister Grant Robertson announced he is appointing Liz Dawson as Chair of the interim TAB NZ Board.  The interim board is responsible for the governance of TAB New Zealand until the substantive board of directors is appointed. 

Continue reading “Prisoners with a flair for kapa haka are among the beneficiaries of the govt’s latest efforts to promote our wellbeing”

The Minister of Finance’s tax promise has not been broken (really?) if nobody but him promised it, the PM is saying

Let’s see.  The government is denying it has broken a promise with the housing package it announced today while the Corrections Minister is apologising for the bad treatment of women – some say it was torture – in the prisons for which he is responsible while his colleague, Nanaia Mahuta, is rebuking China for its human rights performance. In other announcements,

  • The Government has extended support to the aviation sector until the end of October to help keep the country connected with its trade partners and maintain international passenger services;
  • Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson paid tribute to Annie Aranui, describing her as “a servant to the people” whose “selfless dedication to Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay community will be sorely missed”;
  • Arts and Culture Minister posted a speech she delivered at an NZ Opera  performance of  Ihitai ‘Avei’a – Star Navigator, which explores Pacific navigation and the coming together of Polynesian and European peoples.

The big news of the day was the Government’s housing package to support first-home buyers. Continue reading “The Minister of Finance’s tax promise has not been broken (really?) if nobody but him promised it, the PM is saying”

Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period

Funding of $63 million to help keep New Zealanders safe in the water was the subject of the last item of Beehive news we posted before Christmas.  To kick off 2021, the welfare of tongue-tied infants, digitally disadvantaged oldies and fastidious prison inmates (many of them gang members) was high on the government’s agenda for official statements.

The tightening of our  border controls to keep all of us safe from virulent new strains of Covid-19 was the subject of two press releases.

And three ministers (including the PM) took time out to congratulate  Kiwis awarded New Year gongs.

Oh – and let’s not forget that Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, on Christmas Day,  welcomed the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on their future post-Brexit relationship.

While Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis issued just one statement, he was kept busy over several days dealing with something he called “the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison”.

The “event” involved 16 belligerent blokes rioting for six days at Waikeria Prison, lighting fires, throwing debris at Department of Corrections staff, and destroying something called the top jail. Continue reading “Gangs, gongs and a nasty strain of Covid-19 become the stuff of ministerial statements over the holiday period”

Let’s forget about prison and see what a term in charm school can achieve – or will crime disappear in decolonised NZ?

A warning was sounded at the beginning of a recent New Zealand Herald report about the crimes of a couple of blokes who – according to the  Indigenous Pacific Uprising – should not be imprisoned.

The warning was in capital letters.


The two blokes in question were jailed for their part in what the Herald described as

“ … a brutal kidnap where the victim was tortured over 12 hours – his pinky finger cut off with secateurs, both feet shot and his naked body burned with a blowtorch while he was tied up and gagged.

“His attackers, who believed he had robbed another person of “thousands of dollars”, burned his eyes with cigarettes, urinated on him and beat him for hours in a bid to get him to disclose where the money was.” Continue reading “Let’s forget about prison and see what a term in charm school can achieve – or will crime disappear in decolonised NZ?”

Law and order rules are being rewritten as Ardern bridles at accusations of leadership failure

It has been a momentous week for the country’s justice system and old-fashioned notions of “law and order”.

First, the Ardern government has said it is considering a report which  recommends the abolition of prisons.  A Maori-led review of the justice system is also urged by this report.

Second, the PM has intervened in a land dispute in Auckland and thereby over-ridden the role of the courts.  

Getting rid of prisons is the remedy ingeniously proposed to reduce the high ratio of Maori inmates in our prisons.

The proposal is contained in the Ināia Tonu Nei: Māori Justice Hui report (here) released during the week. Continue reading “Law and order rules are being rewritten as Ardern bridles at accusations of leadership failure”