Relaxed New Zealand immigration law for film crews causes concern

- Posted in New Zealand by Visa Bureauon 18 January 2012

When Kiwi director Peter Jackson showed the world New Zealand's breathtaking landscape as part of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, so dramatic was the scenery that many were convinced the stunning backdrop could only have been digitally created. Now film makers from all over the world want to use New Zealand as the setting of their next epics.

The latest of these eager film makers is the Indian film industry whose interest has been welcomed with open arms by the New Zealand government, with Prime Minister John Key announcing tax breaks for Bollywood film productions in New Zealand last year.

The first such production, Bollywood heist film Players, wrapped shooting in Wellington and Auckland in 2011 and is currently playing in local theatres.

However, local film crews who worked on the production have complained about late payments, poor working conditions and set damage.

"There was damage to some locations. They worked 30 something, 32 days on the trot. That's a safety concern in itself" said President of the New Zealand Film Technicians' Guild Alun Bollinger, adding that it took months for invoices to be paid.

Mr Bollinger's sentiments were echoed by local business owners who claimed the Bollywood production flouted health and safety restrictions.

These complaints are likely to tarnish a change in the law which makes it easier for foreign actors and film makers to obtain a New Zealand visa. The law change, which comes into effect in March, is intended to further encourage international film makers to shoot in the region.

However, Mr Bollinger believes this might not be the best course of action as using the current New Zealand immigration process "there was a contact between the industry and people coming in so we could negotiate things. Losing any point of contact leaves it wide open. We have no way of knowing who's coming or going.

"Making it easier isn't necessarily the best approach. What we need to do is find a way to get the two industries to work together, because [Bollywood] have a different way of working from us".

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.