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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Throwing an extra $10 million at the New Zealand Film Commission won't guarantee great New Zealand films, but it might mean more taxpayer-funded overseas junkets for staff, ACT New Zealand Business Development Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"It's time Prime Minister Helen Clark made the chief executive of the Film Commission accountable for money spent on staff travel to exotic overseas locations.

"For weeks I have tried to get answers on how much money the Film Commission spends on staff trips to film festivals and meetings in glamour spots like Cannes, Paris, New York and Los Angeles," Miss Coddington said.

"I was told answers were not possible because the Film Commission bundles up the overseas travel costs then itemises them under different 'sectors' like marketing, development, etc. - the old Ross Armstrong trick.

"Finally, this week, I received a breakdown - not of costs but of trips. Since 1999, 12 representatives have taken over 100 visits to 14 different countries.

"Undeniably, some New Zealand Film Commission films do well internationally - 'Whale Rider' and 'Rain' - for instance. But do taxpayers need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for five staff at a time to go to Cannes, where hotel rooms start at NZ$250 a night?

"According to industry sources, this is 'outrageous and disgusting'. For instance, in 2000 81 days were spent at Cannes by five staff, including the chief executive. In this same year, 170 days out of the year were spent overseas at festivals, and that doesn't include days spent travelling.

"A private company would have a marketing and travel budget and choose the best festivals to attend. But the Film Commission is spending other people's money so accountability doesn't appear to be a high priority.

"Meanwhile the real heroes of the film industry, those talented entrepreneurs actually making films, must come begging to the Commission's door for crumbs thrown from the table.

"Before the Prime Minister and Minister for Arts & Culture tossed $10 million of taxpayers' money to the Film Commission, she should have called her good friend Dr Ruth Harley, the chief executive of the Film Commission, to account," Miss Coddington said.

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