Avatar film crew's border exemption granted after one week

It took just one week for the Avatar film crew's exemption to re-enter New Zealand to be granted, the film's award-winning producer says. 

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Jon Landau says strict quarantine rules were followed. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government's process attracted criticism, with accusations the filmmakers received special treatment after the exemption was given to bypass the country's border rules. 

In an exclusive interview, Jon Landau said he did not believe the team were given special compensation, instead he says they approached the exemption application early and responsibly and followed New Zealand's strict quarantine rules. 

Landau, director James Cameron and 32 others were granted the exemption to the Covid-19 border closures based on economic grounds. 

"This one production alone is going to hire 400 New Zealanders to work on it," Landau said. "We're going to spend, in the next five months alone, over $70 million here."

"We submitted a formal letter to Minister (Phil) Twyford's office requesting permission to come down. We would have waited... a week to finally hear back that it looked like it was going to work," Landau said. 

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Avatar Producer Jon Landau told Q+A it took a week to get a border exemption to enter NZ so the crew could resume filming. Source: Q+A

As of June 10, 15,331 people had applied for a border exemption, of that - 2,914 were invited to apply for a visa and 2,456 visa applications had been approved. 

The decision to quickly allow Avatar's crew into the country but not America's Cup challenger teams was met with criticism, with the American Magic team saying it waited more than two months to get approval. 

American and British challengers were given exemptions last week, following the easing of border restrictions

Filming of Avatar sequel was suspended on March 17 amid concerns over Covid-19. 

The crew touched down in Wellington two-weeks-ago after being given an exemption to enter, going straight into quarantine at the QT Hotel. 

"No one left their rooms. We couldn't intermingle with each other, let alone go outside," Landau said. 

Stuff reported the Ministry of Health confirmed one isolated instance where two guests walked within two metres of a crew member, who was wearing a facemask and shield and had tested negative for Covid-19. 

Watch Jon Landau's full interview on TVNZ1's Q+A at 9.45pm tonight.