The Press Online
November 19, 1999Hobbits in Kepler
Mine Upset Forest and Bird
The Royal Forest and Bird Society has taken issue with the
Department of Conservation for allowing Lord of the Rings filming on protected land.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced on Friday that crews would be allowed to film
on National Park land in Fiordland and Central Otago.
Forest and Bird's southern conservation officer Sue Maturin
said she was disappointed Lord of the Rings production company Three Foot Six Ltd had been
granted consent to film in the Kepler Mire in the Te Anau basin. "Frodo and his hairy
hobbit friends with their large attendant film crews may severely damage sensitive
landscapes," Ms Maturin said.
Filming in some areas could involve bringing 30 equipment
trucks, 10 caravans and up to 200 staff on to some sites for up to nine days at a time,
she said. "National Parks are meant to be preserved as far as possible in their
natural state and commercial concessions are supposed to avoid annoying other park
users," Ms Maturin said.
Forest and Bird had made a submission to the Department of
Conservation against filming in The Kepler Mire. It pointed out the mire was an ancient
string bog, unusual in the southern hemisphere. The wetland contained rare and delicate
plants and was an important habitat of the grey duck, New Zealand fern bird and
Australasian bittern. Filming is expected to take place during the birds' breeding season.
"It will be difficult, if not impossible, for film crew
and cast to avoid the sensitive areas and any restoration would severely detract from the
existing natural values," the submission said.
A spokeswoman for Mr Smith said the crew had to work hard to
get the consents. A conservation officer would be present constantly when the crew was
working in environmentally sensitive areas and, at other time, the officer would check on
filming several times a day.
The company had paid a $50,000 bond in case damage was done
and agreed to meet 77 conditions in an extensive 40-page document. "They're being
really, really careful," she said. Under the terms of the consent, battle scenes and
extensive use of horses will not be allowed.
The company will meet Ngai Tahu representatives before
filming starts to gain a Maori perspective on the land. Other groups were also consulted.
Filming of the $360 million movie trilogy is due to take
place around Te Anau, Fiordland, the Wakatipu basin and Mt Owen, near Murchison, during
the next few months.