Started off with a much needed Second Breakfast at the Shires Rest. Which happens to open at 9.00am ready for the the first tour at 9:30.
During the winter, tours depart from here every 2 hours. In summer they go every 1 hour, but at the height of the season now, they are running a tour (40 people) every 15 minutes. Which just goes to show how popular an attraction it has become. When we visited 10 years ago there were 6 of us on our tour. This time, there was a pretty endless stream of people entering the Rest to book on a tour. Busses take you from the Rest, over the road onto the farmland. You cannot see anything of Hobbiton itself from the cafe or the road – which was one of the reasons the site was chosen all those years ago.
Our elderly bus, totally Kiwi with a door mechanism held together with Parcel Tape – worked its little engine off getting up and down the dips.
Its just a few minutes drive to the site, through prime farmland and then you get to HOBBITON:
Even in bad weather, the site is spectacular. The tours are timed so there’s just enough of a gap between groups to get around, but bear in mind that at this time of year you will be hard pressed to take photos without other tour groups showing up in them. Also, while the route around the site – being farmland – is not all straight or flat, there was an elderly couple with us, one on a walking stick who managed the tour admirably – so don’t be put off. Just be away that the trail is very narrow in parts, and theres a bit of up and down.
There are now 40 hobbit holes to see. They are all “fake” – that is just a set – so there’s no actual Hobbit Hole you can go look around and wander in. I mention this because some people sounded disappointed as they hadn’t really realised that the Bag End interior was a stage set in Wellington, and not part of the Hobbiton Set. There is one Hobbit Hole you can stand just inside the door of for photos – but unfortunately – it isn’t Bag End.
Bag End – with Bilbo’s tree above it:
And what it looked like 10 years ago – when we actually managed to get photos of us sitting in the entrance.
The Green Dragon Pub – the end of your Tour.
Serving FREE BEER. The absolute height of civilization if you ask me. Beer, Cider and Ginger beer is served in pottery mugs, in the quaintest pub I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of quaint old pubs!). Food is available at a separate counter for a charge – but seriously – try the beer. Its actually a Stout I think – specially brewed for this pub – and you buy bottles to take away at either the Shires Rest or the Information center. Unfortunately you cant fit much in the boot of an MX5!
This really is a worthwhile stop on any tour of New Zealand – whether you are a LOTR fanboy like us, or you just want to see an interesting bit of the country. There’s no such thing here as “we are just a small country” – this is a New Zealand family who have taken something and run with it – and are running a top notch tourist operation. It still has that homely feel – the Shires Rest is a local cafe, serving a great Flat White and hearty (second) breakfast – much as you would get anywhere in New Zealand, but honestly – you would be hard pressed to see a movie attraction this good outside the major studio tours. All the staff are locals, and proud of their slice of movie history and happy to talk to you. At $75 each for adults its not cheap by local standards by any means – but a 2 hour tour and a visit at the Green Dragon – I thought was well worth the money.
I really can’t recommend it enough!
So as an Immigrant Brit living quite happily in New Zealand – I get an occasional amount of grief from time to time for being a so-called “whinging pom”. It happens to most of us at some point or other. Mercifully it’s quite rare really. So I often find myself bemused at the rate at which Kiwis them selves can indulge in a rampant Whinge Fest with not the slightest sense of irony.
The Hobbit has its World Premier this week. This is a Massive hit for New Zealand. Not only has Peter Jackson put New Zealand on the map (how many people even knew where this country was before The Lord Of The rings movies?), but has created a truly world class film production industry in a tiny middle-of-nowhere country. This is an industry in which New Zealnad truly is a world leader. This isn’t a fantasy – a 100% Pure marketing campaign – this is real. New Zealand is the place where huge blockbuster movies get made.
So why, in the past few weeks, has there been an almost no stop barrage of whinging about the movies, the premier, the marketing, the production company, Peter Jackson and anything and everything Hobbit Related?
Seriously – New Zealand really doesn’t need help from the “whinging poms” – its doing a fine old job of crapping all over itself – and for something that it doesn’t deserve any crap for.
I’m not talking about people who just aren’t interested – not everyone likes movies about wizards, dragons and elves or blockbuster movies. Hey – I don’t give a crap about Rugby – but you cant help but notice that New Zealand is actually a bit good at it – and quite good at marketing itself on its rugby history. I can choose not to go if I want to.
This is an odd country a lot of the time. It glorifies itself for things that perhaps aren’t quite so true and gets really pissy when people like me point that out, and then rips its own guts out for stuff the rest of worlds praises it for.
Here are just some of the negative articles in New Zealand media this week.
Peta and some no-longer-employed-by-Peter-jackson-since-ages-ago-but-lets-lett-our-story-now wranglers, claim that Peter Jackson and his movie killed 27 animals. Apparently – it shocks some people that New Zealand farms have – like – real countryside in them in which animals can – like – fall over,in,down and out of. They are going to protest at tomorrows Premier. Yay!
Rehashing of the “Industrial Dispute” where a bunch of overly important “act-ors” who were not even in film held it to ransom over T&Cs they demanded in other films. Apparently the fact that NZ had to crawl to Warner Bros is all this is still all the fault of PJ and not the fault of the egotistical act-ors who were not even in the movie! Go Figure.
Just HOW much money the production companies get by way of Tax Rebates. Which I still think should be mostly charged to the Actors Union!
The Tolkien estate is suing the producers. Nothing to do with Peter Jackson – which you could be forgiven for thinking. I think its a bit odd actually – no problem with the Tolkien Family getting upset at their Grandfathers legacy being used to promote Online Gambling, but this is a family who have written an awful lot of books and claimed they were actually written by a guy who died a long time ago. Sparking a bit of a craze in dead fantasy Authors names on books they didn’t write.
An interesting article actual – someone at Wingnut films seems to have pulled the press credentials of a journalism who was writing some of the “negative” stories. PJ got wind of this – apologised, reinstated the credentials and is investigating. Hmmm – some other companies and industry bodies could do with a bit of that – couldn’t they Sanitarium? (Don’t worry – your IP address has not been blocked – I’m not as petty and silly as you are )
And in what can only be called typical blatant hypocrisy – as few MPs who were frothing at the mouth over the Act-Ors dispute – will in fact be attending the world premier - waltzing down the red carpet as the self important ninnies they are. They hate the movie, hate the studio, and didn’t want it made here – but hey – there’s booze and publicity – so who cares eh? Principles are so last year! (No mention as to whether Robyn Malcolm will be staying away yet, but the Green Party gets an ethical thumbs up for sticking to their guns and not attending).
Articles were claiming that the fact that Sir Ian McKellen was not attending the premier was because he was offended by comments made my John Key about a “Gay” shirt. Now, I have no idea why Sir Ian isn’t attending, and he was offended by the comments and said so publicly – rebuking the Prime Minister for his thoughtless comments. But I can’t honestly believe that Sir Ian would let that stop him attending the premier, and I can’t understand why the need to connect the two things!
All in all – I have been amazed. We haven’t even had a chance to see the film yet – and won’t for a few more weeks – but seriously – can’t we just celebrate something marvelous. something truly world-class and have a good time?
The world premier for the first of the three Hobbit movies is this Wednesday – meaning Hubby gets the afternoon off to spend in Courtney Place soaking up what promises to be a stunning atmosphere. Wellington has been taken off with Hobbit Fever: shops have decorated – some with a huge amount of skill and creativity, the Embassy theater has has a makeover thanks to Weta, and Waitangi Park has been turned into a stunning Artisan Market and open air cinema, showing the three Lord of the Rings Movies.
So today, we decided a visit to the market was in order, just to get us in the mood for Wednesday. And hey – we can cope with watching The Fellowship of the Ring one more time!
We got sidetracked by Starbucks – I hope they win the competition for the best decoration (I believe its seats to the premier?). They have painted the whole of the front windows to look like Hobbiton, and created an impressive Smaug. Now only that but they have renamed the store inside Shirebucks, and created some themed drinks – including Gaffers Brew and a special deal on a “Second Breakfast”. I didn’t try it, but Im a huge fan of Second Breakfasts!
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the market, it was starting to cloud over and get a bit chilly, so my photos aren’t the best. Ill try and get some better ones in the next day or so.
However, I can tell you that this is a stunning little market. Some of the stallholders are artists who actually worked on the film, and you can tell by the craftsmanship why they got the jobs. From leatherworkers, to jewelers to sword smiths. This is the kind of thing that we don’t really get to see outside of a museum. Ive seen some stun like this at UK medieval fairs, where craftsman make museum quality replicas, buts its rare to see this in New Zealand. If you can get to the fair – it’s on until Wednesday – 12-6pm, and the Two Towers and Return of the King are showing at 6pm on Monday and Tuesday.
Unfortunately – we had to leave The Fellowship of the Ring early. But Ho Hum – we had a taste of Hobbit Fever, and will be back for more – when I have checked the bank balances. There may be some serious spending goin on!
Greed. And Peter Jackson’s unwillingness to pay what can only be described as a bribe.
So while I, like many, would dearly love such a Museum here, I can only say good on PJ for standing up to a bunch of corrupt and greedy bastards.
Sir Peter Jackson’s plans to build a world-class film museum in Shelly Bay were scuppered when Sir Ngatata Love’s partner sought $750,000 in consultancy fees to help secure the land.
Months before the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust gained the right to buy the former air force base on the Miramar Peninsula from the Crown, Jackson wrote to Sir Ngatata outlining a plan to create a permanent home for his vast array of Lord of the Rings props.
“I have always thought that Shelly Bay would be an ideal site for a state-of-the-art exhibition building of international standard,” Jackson wrote in March 2008.
He added that he was concerned about commercial exploitation of coastal Wellington and he would be “honoured” to discuss the plans personally with Sir Ngatata. Discussions over the following months were expanded to include a digital training school on the site.
But the plans were abandoned after Sir Ngatata’s partner, Lorraine Skiffington, approached Matt Dravitzki, general manager of Jackson’s Wingnut Films, seeking up to $750,000 plus GST – including $250,000 up front.
In return, Ms Skiffington, a lawyer, undertook to conduct work including securing the acquisition of the land, and composing a master plan and publicity plan.
Wow – just wow. So you just come along because you are the “partner” of the person approached, and stick your grubby hand out for three quarters of a million dollars just because you are the partner of the person who heads up the Maori Trust in charge of the land.
That’s kinda like me demanding money of companies in Wellington who use Hubby’s IT skills before I will allow him to work for them. Its a good job I’m not a greedy bitch. Instead I believe that Hubby should charge a fair rate for a fair days work, and oddly enough, everyone is happy.
Under the proposal, Jackson and partner Fran Walsh would pay Ms Skiffington $250,000 on execution of the agreement. Further funds would be paid on monthly invoices following receipt of tax invoices.
Services were to be capped to a maximum of $750,000, plus GST.
A source close to Jackson called the consultancy proposal “a serious turnoff” for the director.
They were being very polite.
Days later, Ms Skiffington pursued Mr Dravitzki for progress on the agreement, as Sir Ngatata was about to have a meeting with Wellington City Council chief executive Garry Poole about the plan.
“He [Sir Ngatata] and I resonate with their core values,” she said. “Now that the [deed of] settlement has been signed, we cannot delay.”
Seriously – how can anyone who utters suck a banal and meaningless phrase as “resonate with their core values” think for one minute they deserve to be paid $750 let alone $750,000.
Jackson and Walsh were unimpressed when they were shown the consultancy deal draft – and refused to sign.
Mr Dravitzki confirmed last week that Ms Skiffington’s proposed consultancy deal had scuppered the Shelly Bay museum plan.
“We chose not to sign when presented with the proposed services agreement from Lorraine Skiffington,” he told The Dominion Post. “The museum project is not on our agenda.”
Good. Serves the greedy douche right. Except this isn’t the first time that Lorraine Skiffington and “Sir” Ngatata Love have been in the media recently for similar schemes. Only the last lot of suckers didn’t have the guts or integrity to tell them where to stick it.
The Serious Fraud Office is investigating the Wellington Tenths Trust, of which Sir Ngatata was chairman until he stood down last month, over possibly unlawful payments and transactions. [To Ms Skiffington].
Sir Ngatata was also chairman of the Port Nicholson trust, but has stood down while the investigation is conducted.
The investigation is understood to include a payment of more than $1 million into an account jointly held by Ms Skiffington and Sir Ngatata, which came from Auckland property developer Redwood. It won the contract to build what is now the headquarters of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on Tenths Trust land.
The Tenths Trust refers to a trust set up to administer land bought by the New Zealand Company – a 10th of which was supposed to be reserved for Maori Use. This included the “Port Nicholson Block” which makes up a large chunk of Wellington. This was given back to the local Iwi in a treaty settlement – Sir Love is one of the trustees of the trust that administers that land now. No where in the information does it say that the land will be used so one of the partners of the trustees can skim a load of cash off the top of any deals as “consultancy fees”.
Treaty settlements are meant to benefit all Maori – not just the chosen few at the top of the chain. In practice this does not appear to be the case most of the time. I am left with the feeling that while people like this denigrate the Colonials for stealing their land, they seem hell bent on behaving just as badly, and corruptly themselves sometimes.
The payments came to light during the trial of two Wellington accountants of whom Ms Skiffington was a client. Both were jailed for eight years for fraud.
(Its worth noting that they would have got less jail time – by miles – if they had been caught abusing New Zealand children – but thats a whole other issue.)
Ms Skiffington and Sir Ngatata have refused to comment on the investigation.
I bet they have.
There is no evidence that money changed hands during discussions of the Shelly Bay museum plans and nor is there any suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Jackson and Walsh.
So thanks “Sir” Love and Ms Skiffington. Because of your greed this city isn’t playing host to a world class Lord Of The Rigns Museum. I really hope you are both proud of yourselves and how much you have let people down.
Filed under: Life in New Zealand, Only in New Zealand, Things to do
The Embassy Cinema in Wellington is a must-see – whether you are just visiting or are here to stay. Honestly – I would go even if the film on isn’t really to your taste – because it is a beautiful cinema in its own right, and a haven for geek ridden Lord of The Rings Fans.
It was entirely renovated in time for the world premier of The Return Of The king – taking it from a drab, slightly smelly old cinema with crap sound to a luxury emporium with plush seats (leather if you pay a bit extra), arm rests big enough for a glass of wine and nibbles from the bar, extra large screen and decent sound system.
And for the geeks – the wooden arm rests hold little brass name plaques of the people who sponsored parts of the rebuild. The Leather seats (Platinum) contain a famous name or two, and it is quite something watching new visitors work out if the sitting on Hugo Weaving or Elijah Wood.
Now all that was done some year ago – but last year, the Embassy upgraded again, by adding two new cinemas in downstairs with a separate bar – the Deluxe Screens. Theses are small cinemas, relatively flat , whereas the main auditorium is an old style big theatre with sloped seating. The deluxe screens contain the leather platinum seats – just not so many of them.
Last night we went to see a showing of The Two Towers (extended edition) at The Embassy Theatre in Wellington. They are showing all the films – one each week, and unfortunately we missed the first one last week.
Now the Embassy is a really stunning cinema. It was renovated for the world premier of Return of the King, so everything form the seats, to the toilets is really impressive. Seeing LOTR on the big screen again is pretty special – especially when you get to see the extended versions which were only available on DVD.
What made this even better though was that there were a number of tourists in the audience, who had clearly come to the cinema just because it was LOTR showing. And they were so excited when they saw the seat armrests. Each armrest has the name of a sponsor who donated money to the refurbishment. Among those are actors who were involved in the LOTR movies – so there was much taking of photos.
There probably aren’t many cinemas where people get that excited.
Come to think of it – watching Lord Of The Rings at The Embassy is like watching a Star Wars movie at the Graumans Chinese in LA. I’ve done that too!