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              This film image released by Warner Bros., shows Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a scene from the fantasy adventure "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."  (AP Photo/Warner Bros., James Fisher, File)
              This film image released by Warner Bros., shows Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a scene from the fantasy adventure "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (AP Photo/Warner Bros., James Fisher, File)   

New Zealand wants ‘Hobbit’ film subsidy back

New Zealand taxpayers may want the $67 million subsidy they provided to the production team of”The Hobbit” back, now that the blockbuster movie has grossed more than $1 billion.

The leader of New Zealand opposition party New Zealand First, Winston Peters, said Warner Brothers should repay the subsidy that “the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers,” New Zealand online news source Stuff.co.nz reports.

The subsidy was granted under the understanding that the film would create 3,000 jobs, a number that Peters says was “plucked out of thin air”.

Peters released documents Monday showing, he claims, that the numbers were completely fabricated. In particular, an email exchange between the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s office and Peter Jackson’s film company Wingnut Films apparently shows the blasé conversation that took place over the finalization of the deal.

“The context is if he’s asked about Labour’s industrial relations policy and how it might impact on the New Zealand film industry he can say something like ‘about 3000 people will work on the Hobbit movies – if that policy had been in place then all those people might never have got a job’,” the Key adviser wrote.

The Wingnut Films response: “Three thousand is a good number.”

Peters expresssed concern over the longevity of the jobs, and questioned whether they had been created prior to the start of filming.

“How many of them will exist once the final film has premiered and how many of these jobs actually went to New Zealanders?” Peters asked.

“There is no doubt now that the deal with the movie industry was more about lining pockets than creating jobs,” Peters said.

Many local businesses and industry shared a similar sentiment that the subsidy favored outside interests over national ones.

“The film industry fat cats deserve millions of dollars in tax breaks because they are on a ‘worldwide playing field’,” Peters said. ”Yet somehow that same logic does not apply to our manufacturing industry.”

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