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'Where does it end?' Film industry subsidies come at a price, says NZ Initiative

New Zealand pays out millions of dollars in subsidies to the screen industry every year, but The New Zealand Initiative believes that money should be spent elsewhere. 

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Eric Crampton of NZ Initiative says showering the screen industry with subsidies is neither fair, nor sensible. Source: Breakfast

In a report out yesterday by Matt Nippert in NZ Herald it was revealed that Sir Peter Jackson’s Wellington-based Weta Group receives more than $40 million of the annual sum.

Some argue that amount of money is beneficial to New Zealand, especially for the country’s tourism industry. But for Eric Crampton of New Zealand Initiative it doesn’t sit well.

“What we’re not seeing are the other industries that might be here employing people instead if we didn’t have massive subsidies going into the film sector and diverting people into those areas,” Mr Crampton told TVNZ 1's Breakfast.

“It’s hard to imagine any industry in the country that wouldn’t argue that if they could just get a 20 per cent rebate on everything that they spend in the country with opportunity for another five per cent back if they can show that there is enough benefit to New Zealand – every industry would love to have that kind of arrangement,” he says.

Eric Crampton says it’s not really money for nothing.

“It just feels a bit odd that we’re giving, according to Nippert’s findings, as much money to Weta Workshop as were giving to Radio New Zealand a public broadcaster,” he says.

Currently, Mr Crampton says there is around $170 million spent in subsidies to international films. He says other industries are also affected by not getting a slice of that money, because they aren’t getting the people they need in the right jobs.

“The video game industry at the end of last year was complaining that they can’t get workers because they’re all being sucked in to video animation in the subsidised film industry,” he says. 

“Where does it end? We shouldn’t be on this kind of rollercoaster. Every country in the world competes on these kinds of subsidies and it’s a mistake to be in that game.”

Jacinda Ardern disagrees. She says she believes the flow on affect of the film sector is worth it for New Zealand. 

"You ask anyone who works in the industry whether or not it makes a difference... the flow on affect is huge," the Prime Minister said today.

"The film industry is completely unique."