'Avatar' crew touch down in Wellington

Film producer Jon Landau arrives in New Zealand for Avatar film shootings following a fortnight...
Film producer Jon Landau arrives in New Zealand for Avatar film shootings following a fortnight of quarantine. PHOTO: Facebook
The Avatar film crew have touched down in Wellington through a little-known loophole which allows foreigners through New Zealand's closed borders.

Last week Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford revealed there was a category for border exemptions for foreigners deemed essential to a project of "significant economic value".

The film industry said allowing key film personnel, like producers and cast, into New Zealand would be "huge" as it could trigger thousands of jobs for Kiwis.

Fifty-seven crew members landed in the capital on Sunday, including the upcoming Avatar sequel's producer Jon Landau, who shared the news of their arrival online.

"Made it to New Zealand," he posted on Facebook.

"Our 14-day Government-supervised self-isolation now begins."

The Oscar-winning producer last week announced he would be returning to New Zealand to resume production on the sequel, telling RNZ the crew felt "very comfortable" to be "coming to the safest place in the world".

"We feel very comfortable because of the actions of your Government and also the responsibility the people took to really curb the virus there.

"So we feel we're coming back to the safest place in the world possible, thanks to a team of people that we've worked with. We believe we have a very thoughtful, detailed and diligent safety plan that will keep everybody as safe as possible in these unprecedented times."

Landau said that they "far fewer people" than they had last year would be flying into New Zealand and only those deemed "essential" to the production's filming needs would enter the country.

An Air New Zealand 787-9, the first-ever commercially operated plane to fly directly from Los Angeles to Wellington, landed early Sunday morning.

Its place of departure has now recorded more than 2900 Covid-linked deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

There are now more than six million cases of the coronavirus worldwide - with 1.8m of those in the United States, the country worst hit from the virus.

New Zealand has just one active case of Covid-19, with no new cases recorded in the past nine days.

There are no Covid patients in hospital here.

The Hollywood crew now face two weeks of quarantine, but the airline crew are exempt from the quarantine rules, Stuff reported.

Twyford earlier said he was granted powers by Cabinet to oversee the special applications on April 21, about a month after New Zealand closed its borders to all non-citizens and residents.

The criteria applicants have to meet include having a talent that can't be met by a Kiwi, involvement in a project which is time-critical and provides "significant economic value" or wider benefit to the economy, Twyford said.

In total, about 1500 people have been allowed through the border who aren't New Zealanders. The exemptions have mostly been to family members of Kiwis or temporary visa holders, Immigration New Zealand figures show.

About seven or eight international productions are already set to start this year, which would employ up to 4000 people and inject about $400 million into the economy.

Among the international productions were Avatar in Wellington and Amazon's billion-dollar Lord of the Rings series being filmed in Auckland.

Release dates for the Avatar series:

  • Avatar 2 on December 17, 2021
  • Avatar 3 in December 2023
  • Avatar 4 in December 2025
  • Avatar 5 in December 2027


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