‘Fortress New Zealand’ Covid zero policy hits key industry

The stringent border controls have also cost New Zealand its leg of yachting competition SailGP
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 05:45 IST
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 05:45 IST

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By Ainsley Thomson,

New Zealand’s plan for a phased reopening of borders in early 2022 has come too late to stop it from losing one of its world-famous attributes as the filming location of Lord of the Rings, with crews deeming the nation’s stringent quarantine requirements untenable.

Amazon Studios said last week it will shift filming of the television series to the UK, with industry publication Deadline reporting that New Zealand’s strict pandemic border closures -- which require a two-week stay in a managed isolation facility, or MIQ -- kept British cast members from returning home for close to two years. The lockdown also prevented Amazon executives from visiting the sets to monitor shooting, the media outlet said.

Screen Industry Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand president Brendon Durey told New Zealand news website Stuff that the decision highlights the problems the film industry is facing with the border policy, which has kept the country largely Covid-free and limited virus deaths to 26.

Also Read | Amazon dumps New Zealand as location for 'The Lord of The Rings'

“Now we’re heading into what I’d call an MIQ-induced coma. There are various other productions which want to come into New Zealand but can’t navigate the MIQ system,” Durey said.

New Zealand Film Commission said the production brought in around NZ$650 million ($457 million) and employed about 2,000 New Zealanders. Still, the commission’s Chief Executive Officer David Strong said the country’s international reputation would continue to attract global interest.

“Our locations are legendary, and we have competitive incentives and infrastructure,” Strong said.

The stringent border controls have also cost New Zealand its leg of yachting competition SailGP, the international catamaran race series started by Oracle founder Larry Ellison. The application for MIQ places for the eight national teams and staff competing in the January event was declined, SailGP said in a statement Monday.

Event director Karl Budge told Newstalk ZB that the economic benefit to New Zealand if the race went ahead would be a “significant seven figure number.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week laid out a plan to ease some of New Zealand’s border curbs by speeding up the vaccine rollout this year and beginning a phased reopening of the border in early 2022. She has been under pressure to present a road map out of “fortress New Zealand,” with the restrictions decimating its tourism industry and leading to shortages of migrant labor.

Published 17 August 2021, 04:08 IST

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