John Key, accused of having a 'taste for celebrity', shared a beer with actors from The Hobbit after last year's Hollywood trip. Picture: Christine Cornege/NZ Herald
John Key says Hollywood finds New Zealand more attractive
than other countries because it does not have a strong union
The comment was made by the Prime Minister in a briefing to
the Cabinet after his high-profile trip to Hollywood in
He told Cabinet colleagues that feedback from the visit -
which included a private dinner with some of the most
powerful movie-makers in the world - showed New Zealand
appealed because it had "a flexible labour market and an
educated workforce, which is not heavily unionised".
This, and a lack of "fringe payments", were advantages for
New Zealand in the international tussle for Hollywood's
business. Fringe payments typically include superannuation
Mr Key's report to the Cabinet was obtained under the
Official Information Act by Greens co-leader Metiria Turei,
who slammed the Prime Minister for what she said was selling
out workers' rights to Hollywood.
It has also brought fresh fire from Council of Trade Unions
president Helen Kelly, a fierce opponent of the 2010 labour
law changes that Mr Key has said secured The Hobbit filming
for New Zealand.
Mr Key's office this week backed up the briefing, saying:
"The best example of the 'impact of unionisation on the
workforce' was when the actions of MEAA [Media Entertainment
and Arts Alliance] and Actors' Equity NZ jeopardised 3000
jobs on The Hobbit.
"The importance of the 'flexibility of the labour market' was
when the New Zealand Government chose to negotiate a deal to
ensure the filming remained in New Zealand."
Mr Key's briefing to the Cabinet also cited accessible and
attractive scenic locations and a transparent economy with
"minimal corruption" as selling points. He told colleagues
the $260 million in grants paid to big-spending foreign
film-makers since 2004 was "middle of the pack"
internationally and "pitched about right".
The briefing document prepared for Mr Key before he left was
also released. It recorded growth in the sector but also
described employment as of "varying tenure and sporadic
duration". It said "almost everyone" was a contractor with
earnings "relatively low and middle income".
Ms Turei said the briefing showed what she saw as Mr Key's
lack of "hope and commitment" to workers.
"Over and over again, we have seen him sell New Zealand
"John Key's modus operandi is deals but what he is selling
here is New Zealand workers' low wages and poor conditions."
Ms Kelly said Mr Key had low-wage aspirations. "I think it
leads to wealth creation for the wealthy, which is who he
She said Mr Key had a "taste for celebrity" and got a
"thrill" from dealing with Hollywood. "He is personally
responsible for the relationship with Warners - and he has
She said she believed his enjoyment had driven government
policy, depriving workers of their rights.
"What happened with the making of the film The Hobbit was
wrong and unnecessary. The film industry has a right to
employ New Zealand workers and deny them all their rights.
They do not even have to pay them minimum wage."
Film New Zealand chief executive Gisella Carr, who arranged
the Hollywood dinner with 34 major movie figures, said the
incentive system was a "pre-condition" for any country
wanting to attract film work.
She said The Lord of the Rings had transformed New Zealand
from being involved in filming to having a genuine industry.
"It is a growing industry globally and New Zealand has been
very good at extracting advantage."