The Government has released 41 pages of emails and documents regarding the filming of The Hobbit trilogy in New Zealand.
Many of the documents show correspondence between director Sir Peter Jackson, studios and ministers about Australia's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance trying to acquire New Zealand’s Actor’s Equity group.
The MEAA’s director Simon Whipp, wanted to unionise the production of The Hobbit with his union which gave Warner Brothers cold feet and nearly forced filming offshore.
In October 2010, Sir Peter warned the then Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee that Mr Whipp was “playing the Government for fools” and succeeding in delaying The Hobbit’s production in New Zealand.
“You engaged with a snake. He is in revenge mode, intent on inflicting as much damage as he can to our film, to our film industry, to our country,” he says.
Other emails show Sir Peter was at the end of his tether in relation to Mr Whipp’s interference.
“We cannot carry on for much longer in this insanity […] I really can’t take much more of this toxic nonsense. All I want to do is make films!,” his email says.
He claims Mr Whipp was focussed on making money rather than the rights of actors.
“Simon Whipp is doing this so that he can claim to have negotiated The Hobbit contract. This in turn will give him and the MEAA access to a very large chunk of money via the actor’s residuals.”
“In the end, it’s not about Actor’s Equity, nor is it about The Hobbit – it is about an Australian trade union making a blatant play to take a controlling hand in the NZ film industry for their own political and financial gain.”
Sir Peter asked the Government to amend the Employment Relations Act - which it eventually did - to clarify which workers are classified as employees and which as independent contractors.
“This grey are is something we must assume Simon Whipp will endlessly exploit.
“We are very concerned that studios no longer view New Zealand as a safe place to make films as the perceived risks are now simply too great,” wrote Sir Peter.
The documents were released at the request of the Ombudsman after the Government initially denied releasing them.
“The Government originally sought to keep some of the information confidential in order to protect information that was provided in confidence and was commercially sensitive,” current Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.
Mr Whipp was replaced in his role at the MEAA early last year.