Home > Dollars & Sense, The Body Politic > Key: When I say ‘no’, I mean ‘no’. Maybe.

Key: When I say ‘no’, I mean ‘no’. Maybe.



Two years ago, what should have been a relatively minor industrial negotiation between Actor’s Equity and and SPADA (Screen Production and Development Association) turned into a major incident, both local and international.

The dispute swelled into a mass-panic as New Zealanders’ believed that they were about to lose their precious – the ‘Hobbit‘ movies. There was talk of production moving to Australia (which is evenly more heavily unionised than NZ) or Eastern Europe, or Outer Mongolia or wherever.

Tension escalated. Death threats were made. Union officials were harassed and threatened. Hysteria reached moral-panic proportions not seen since the 1981 Springbok Tour Days.

Then, on 27 October 2010, the Wide Boys from Hollywood rode into town. Their boy, John Key, was on hand to greet them and taxpayer funded limousines were made available to chauffeur the Warner Bro’s to Premier House,


Warner Brothers executives arrive to meet with Prime Minister John Key and other ministers at Premier House. Photo / NZPA


See: Govt paid $6000 limo tab for Warner Bros in Hobbit talks

It was High Stakes time (or so we were led to believe). It was actually more like Herding Sheep time.

And we were the sheep.

Key was sternly adamant; Warner Bros would not screw another cent out of the New Zealand tax-payer. There were already generous tax breaks in place. So said Dear Leader at 11.45am, on the morning of 27 October,

“They’ve got movies to make and in the end, money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works. We can’t stop other countries around the world putting up much better and more financially-lucrative deals. If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.” – Source

By 7.38pm – barely eight hours later – Key had pulled out the taxpayer chequebook,

Tax rebates will also be changed for Warner Bros, which will mean up to an extra US$7.5m per movie for Warner Bros, subject to the success of the movies…

… The Government will offset US$10 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership. ” – Source

As Key lamely explained,

It was commercial reality. We did the business.” – Source

Two years later, Key is once again off to meet with Warner Bros as well as other Hollywood execs,




Every time Key consorts with Corporate Wide Boys, we end up paying, one way or another. So how much will it cost us this time, Dear Leader? What are you preparing to give away now?





The Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson released a statement and his wife and film partner Fran Walsh overnight saying the film’s producer, Hollywood studio Warner Bros, was concerned at the ongoing dispute and preparing to move production away from New Zealand.” – 21 October 2010

See: Brownlee hits out over ‘dreadful’ Hobbit dispute

An email from Sir Peter Jackson shows union action had nothing to do with Warner Bros.’ decision on whether or not The Hobbit would be filmed in New Zealand, says Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly.” – 21 January 2011

See: Union: Protest did not affect Hobbit decision






NZ Herald: PM – I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford (11.45AM, 27 Oct 2010)

NZ Herald: Hobbit to stay in NZ (7.38PM, 27 Oct 2010)

NBR: Key on Hobbit deal: ‘It was commercial reality. We did the business.’  (31 Oct 2010)

Fairfax: PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting   (19 July 2011)

Radio NZ: No extra incentives for US movie companies, says PM (2 Oct 2012)


Labour vows to repeal Hobbit law


TV3: Copyright lobbyist on Key’s Hollywood agenda (4 Oct 2012)



= fs =

  1. Sue
    4 October 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yes – a grim time.
    We had 20,000 out at stopwork meetings and rallies around the country on 20/10/10 – Nationwide Day of Action – and by 4pm the malevolent masters of melodrama (Jackson, Key, Brownlee and cohorts) had stirred up Richard Taylor and the techies to a staged protest and march…

    And still alot of people think they are the good guys – phiffle – they cannot even lie straight in bed!!

  2. 4 October 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Kia Ora

    John Key’s flip flops remind me of another John (Kerry), 8 years ago in the U.S. 2004 President race, which he went on to lose. Kerry was a flip flopper who prided himself on winning three purple hearts in Vietnam, but when it came to hard policy he was unable to articulate clear positions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Q-sRdV7SY


  3. 4 October 2012 at 4:41 pm

    And what workers rights will be deleted this time to suit the wankers from Warner Bros

    • Theodore
      4 October 2012 at 4:49 pm

      @ Peter;

      What I find curious is that Key keeps visiting Hollywood on a semi-regular basis and I wonder how this ties in with his role as Minister of Tourism?

    • 6 October 2012 at 5:20 pm

      They’ll import foreigners (and I don’t mean Yanks) to undercut Kiwi salaries, and thunder through Conservation Lands like they were play pens (or potential mining sites). WB not Wgtn workshops.

  1. 26 February 2013 at 11:12 am

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