Chlöe Swarbrick slams 'devastating' Amazon decision to move Lord of the Rings production to UK

Chlöe Swarbrick has condemned Amazon - a company she says is "renowned for making as much money as possible through as much exploitation as possible" - for deciding to shift production of the second season of Lord of the Rings to the UK.

She says founder Jeff Bezos "is [no longer] always welcome" in New Zealand.

Amazon announced on Friday it will shift production of future seasons of the Lord of the Rings TV show to the United Kingdom despite the NZ Government giving the US e-commerce giant a boost of more than $100 million to film here.

The first season of the show was filmed in New Zealand from early 2020 and will premiere on September 2, 2022 via Amazon's Prime Video streaming service.

The move has been panned by some Lord of the Rings fans and Kiwis, including Greens MP Chlöe Swarbrick.

"After this /unexpected/ slight from a company renowned for making as much money as possible through as much exploitation as possible, can we take it that 'Jeff is [no longer] always welcome'?"

She was referencing comments from Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash when he said in April he didn’t know whether company founder Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, would be among corporate visitors from the company to visit New Zealand.

"Jeff is always welcome," Nash said.

Swarbrick also noted the news would be tough for the thousands of Kiwis who had been employed to work on the first season.

Stuff reported the crew were "blindsided" by the shock announcement which they only found out about from media, and received confirmation via an email on Friday morning.

"Absolutely appreciate this is devastating for the folks who’ve been employed for the project and engaged in many nuanced discussions around better policy for their welfare offline," Swarbrick said. "Subsidies are not black and white, but Amazon being a terrible company is, I feel."

Fans of Lord of the Rings have since taken to social media to express their disappointment that the show will not be shot in New Zealand.

"But everyone knows Middle Earth is in New Zealand," one commenter wrote.

"It won't be the same in the UK," another said.

Others questioned how the COVID-19 pandemic in England will continue to impact filming - while New Zealand remains COVID-free.

"Imagine how much it's going to cost when they have to shut down for COVID-related lockdowns every few weeks," one commenter said.

Amazon Studios Vice President and co-head of TV Vernon Sanders thanked the New Zealand Government and public "for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey". 

He confirmed the company does "not intend to actively pursue the season one MoU 5 percent financial uplift with the New Zealand Government or preserve the terms around that agreement". 

The shift from New Zealand to the UK was made because it "aligns with the studio's strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the UK, with many of Amazon Studios' tentpole series and films already calling the UK home", the company said. 

Post-production work on season one will continue in New Zealand until June 2022.