Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash says a landmark deal has been agreed with Amazon for The Lord of the Rings TV series, currently being filmed in New Zealand.

Mr Nash says the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) secures multi-year economic and tourism benefits to New Zealand, outside the screen production itself.

“The agreement with Amazon not only creates an enduring legacy for our screen industry, it generates local jobs and creates work for local businesses,” Mr Nash says.

“It will enable a new wave of international tourism branding and promotion for this country. It opens the door for Kiwi businesses to access future innovations in technology, research and development through connections with the wider Amazon group.

“The MoU has been signed following negotiations between Amazon and the New Zealand Film Commission; Tourism New Zealand; and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“Under the MoU, Amazon has provisionally been granted an extra 5% from the Screen Production Grant in addition to the 20% grant the production already qualifies for. This entitles Amazon to a potential rebate of 25% of its qualifying spend in NZ.

“There is considerable economic and tourism potential in the Lord of the Rings Project. Not only does it bolster our global reputation as a desirable place to make screen productions, it will further strengthen our tourism appeal to visitors with the ‘Middle-earth’ theme.

“Under the MoU, the Government’s investment will enable significant economic, cultural and industry development benefits to New Zealand over many years, including:

  • Job creation – Season One is currently in production, based in Auckland, with more than 1,200 people employed. Approximately 700 additional workers are indirectly employed by providing services to the production.

The TV series is expected to be a multi-year production and filming on location is provincial regions will extend the economic impact further across New Zealand, especially in the South Island. The production has so far seen:

  • 67% of the speaking roles cast to NZ actors
  • 21% of the major roles cast to NZ actors
  • 92-95% of the crew are New Zealanders
  • 80% of the Heads of Departments (HOD) are New Zealanders
  • New Zealand businesses – Amazon will co-ordinate with MBIE to foster a wider relationship with New Zealand firms.
    Amazon will promote New Zealand businesses, innovations and mutually-beneficial R&D opportunities. Each season will have an R&D theme. Season One will provide opportunities to explore potential collaboration in the aerospace sector.
  • New Zealand screen sector – Amazon will work with the NZ Film Commission to stimulate growth, in both business development and skills within the screen sector.

An early focus will be on placements and internships in production management, directing, production accounting, lighting, dolly grip, editorial, and location management. The arrangement will also provide an opportunity to strengthen the perception of the New Zealand screen offering, by showcasing locations, facilities and the depth and experience of New Zealand cast and crew.

  • New Zealand tourism boost – A close association has been established between New Zealand and Middle-earth.

Prior to Covid, 19% of visitors, around 351,000 people, cited The Hobbit movies as a factor that influenced them to visit New Zealand. The Government anticipates the extension of this association, in a new phase, will offer significant tourism and country-branding benefits as we start to re-open our borders to international visitors.

Tourism NZ will work closely with Amazon to deliver campaigns that build brand preference and desire in a competitive environment as global travel resumes

“It is estimated that Amazon is spending up to $650 million in New Zealand for Season One. The MoU entitles it to a potential rebate of 25% of this expenditure, or approximately $162.5 million.

“The Screen Production Grant is a critical part of remaining internationally competitive and attracting productions and jobs to New Zealand. It builds on our strong reputation for talented cast and crew, post-production facilities, and magnificent scenery.

“Government support for the screen sector is vital, given the economic benefits and jobs it generates, as well as showcasing New Zealand in tourism markets as borders reopen.

“These types of grants, rebates and incentives are the global norm for countries who want to be part of the international film industry.

“Without this rebate, jobs and economic opportunities would be lost overseas in the fiercely competitive global film industry. For example, when Australia reduced its rebates in 2017, it lost 97 per cent of foreign investment in screen productions,” Mr Nash says.

Background Data:

  • In 2017 the screen industry employed over 16,200 people and generated revenue of $3.5 billion. New Zealanders make up 86 percent of labour employed on international productions.
  • Over 60 percent of production budget is spent in other sectors including hospitality and catering, construction, transport, beauty and professional services.
  • In the next five years NZ expects to attract over $4.4 billion in international production spend into the economy creating opportunities for New Zealanders.
  • Five other productions have received the 5% Uplift: Power Rangers Dino ChargePete’s DragonGhost in the ShellThe Meg and Mortal Engines.

 Media contact: Kathryn Street 021 803707

 A summary of the MoU is copied below. The MoU document is online here

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