|The Evening Post
February 1, 2001
Rings Paid $20 a Day
for Defence Staff
The Defence Force said the payment was adequate to cover expenses incurred by having 15 to 250 personnel work each day, mainly as extras, on the $600 million-plus production.
But New Zealand First defence spokesman Ron Mark said the payment was absurd and that soldiers' skills and resources were worth more.
The figures from Defence Minister Mark Burton, released under the Official Information Act, showed Defence Force personnel worked 10,459 days filming around Ruapehu, Queenstown, Alexandra and Twizel.
The Defence Force wasn't paid for the days worked, but got $205,666 for some expenses, including meals, allowances, setting up camps and transport. This meant the cost to The Lord Of The Rings for using the personnel equalled less than $20 for each day a person worked, or $2.45 an hour.
Mr Mark said he supported soldiers working as extras on the Peter Jackson-directed epic, but the amount paid was "absolutely absurd".
"If we are going to insist the Defence Force operate in a business-like manner . . . then pay it what (the personnel) are worth . . . I'd now ask the Prime Minister to transfer funds the Minister of Tourism and from allocations to the film industry to compensate the Army for the loss of its resources and its time," he said.
Defence Force spokesman Warren Inkster said the amount was adequate for expenses it wouldn't otherwise have incurred. The Defence Force had been involved because it had made a commitment to supporting The Lord Of The Rings project, he said.
A spokesman for Mr Burton said calculating payment as $20 for each day worked was meaningless because it was only for expenses incurred.
"Personnel involved were already on the Defence Force's payroll so there was no requirement to recover their salaries," he said.
The Department of Conservation received at least $195,000 for filming in locations it administered.
Conservation Minister Sandra Lee said DOC was also paid a concession fee, but refused to say how much because it could prejudice concession fees negotiated for other films.