The Evening Post
September 8, 2001

Now, a Minister of Middle Earth
Staff Reporter

First we had a Minister responsible for the America's Cup - now we have our own Lord and Minister of the Rings.

The Evening Post can reveal that the Government has recently appointed Energy Minister Pete Hodgson as the Minister responsible for the $600 million film trilogy that stars Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen and Liv Tyler. And he didn't get the position because he has a wizard-like white beard.

The Government is keen for the country to use the films, which were filmed in Wellington and other parts of New Zealand, as a lever to raise the profile of the country internationally through agencies such as Trade New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Sources say negotiations between the Government and the film's backers, New Line Cinema, are near completion and there is a meeting in Los Angeles next week. An announcement of Government plans is expected shortly. A spokesman for Mr Hodgson confirmed today the Minister would oversee opportunities that New Zealand could seize from the films. Tourism Minister Mark Burton would also be involved.

Meanwhile, plans for the Museum Of New Zealand, Te Papa, to hold a Rings exhibition have been put on ice.

Te Papa spokesman Paul Brewer said yesterday it wasn't chasing the project and had moved on. Senior Te Papa staff, including chief executive Dame Cheryll Sotheran, flew to Los Angeles in January to talk with New Line about the plan. However, sources say New Line wasn't in any hurry to give permission to any Rings projects and wanted to concentrate on getting the films out first.