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Wellywood: a New Zealand blockbuster

10:00 AEST Thu Mar 3 2011
As a keen student of filmmaking, Jason Dundas couldn't wait to head to Wellington in New Zealand. Known to locals as "Wellywood", it is a major movie centre of the Southern Hemisphere, thanks in the main to film director Sir Peter Jackson. He put Wellington on the international stage with his epic Lord of the Rings films.

Since then he has had enormous success with King Kong and District 9.

The New Zealand industry has been bubbling along since its first feature film Hinemoa was released in 1913. James Cameron's Avatar was shot there, as well as Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Sir Peter Jackson's untitled Tintin sequel is due for release in 2013.

Along with the fame that came with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wellington has matured into a cosmopolitan city with fine restaurants and excellent hotels. Wellington is the country's culinary capital and was No.4 on Lonely Planet's Top Ten Cities for 2011!

Jason joined a Wellington Rover Tour of film locations. There's lots to see, but Lord of the Rings reigns supreme. Some key scenes were shot just outside the city in Buckland Forest and the location is just as it seems on screen. None of it was digitally enhanced, which makes the whole process more honest and earthy. And Middle-earth is all about to come to life again with the prequel, The Hobbit.

Weta Workshop houses a range of creative disciplines in one place. It includes the creation of weapons, armour and chainmail, specialist props, vehicles, costumes, models and miniatures, make-up and prosthetics. Their efforts have been seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, The Chronicles of Nania and Avatar, as well as contributing to many creative industries worldwide. Weta Workshop was very involved in the television series Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess.

Weta Cave is visited at the end of the tour. It's much, much more than the usual museum and shop included in most tours. It's full of real props, characters and displays and yes, many are for sale. There are books, DVDs, magazines, posters and art as well as clothing, jewellery and other mementoes.

Just in case you were wondering about the word "weta", it's a New Zealand insect. There are around 70 species and the giant weta is around 10cm long and weighs up to 30g.


Wellington, New Zealand's capital.


Wellington Rover Lord of the Rings half-day tours are around $70 for adults and $38 for children. They include inner-city pick-up and drop-off, seven film locations, morning or afternoon tea, map and friend "Hobbit" guide.

Weta Cave is open every day between 9am and 5.30pm. Admission is free.

Air New Zealand has flights to Wellington from:

  • Sydney $229
  • Brisbane $238
  • Melbourne $258
  • Adelaide $299

Other fares are available. Dates vary with departure cities and conditions apply. Check their website,, for full details.

Prices correct at March 3, 2011.

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

Wellington Rover
Ph: + 64 4 471 0044
Fax: +64 4 472 9634

Weta Cave
Camperdown Road and Weka Street
New Zealand
Ph: +64 4 380 9361

Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.

Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.

Time zone: GMT +12.

Currency: The New Zealand dollar.

International dialling code: +64.

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