Avatar 2: James Cameron’s ‘special permission’ to return to New Zealand for sequel branded ‘totally unfair’

Jacob Stolworthy

James Cameron‘s return to New Zealand for filming of Avatar 2, having been given special permission to do so, has been met with some controversy.

Over the weekend, the director and 55 members of his crew were permitted to enter the country despite the country’s border being closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, recently relaxed lockdown guidelines leading to the reopening of some offices and schools, the border remains closed to all foreign nationals.

This has led to “upset” among businesses who have been trying to get crucial members of their staff back into the country to get operations back up and running.

RNZ spoke to a dairy farmer named Tom Hargreaves, who said it was “outrageous” that his second-in-command was stuck in Uruguay while Cameron’s Avatar 2 crew were free to come and go.

“She got stuck like many others trying to get home – turned away at the borders,” said Hargreaves.

Meanwhile, chair of the New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment, June Ranson, said that permitting Cameron to return was a “double standard” as “it’s not really supporting what New Zealanders need” when other businesses are just as important.

“The argument that was put up for these people coming in was that they needed experts on the ground to have the equipment running, [but it’s] exactly the same situation with New Zealand-based business operations. It’s horses for courses – there are double standards here. It’s totally unfair and damaging New Zealand’s reputation.”

Cameron and his crew members were able to return after the country’s economic development minister, Phil Twyford, marked them down in the category of “other essential worker”.

“Since 21 April, I have signed off 22 applications representing 154 other essential workers. Of these, 56 are workers in the film industry,” Twyford said.

Producer Jon Landau was one of the crew members to arrive in New Zealand. They will all be self-isolating for 14 days before filming begins in the first of four Avatar sequels.

Avatar 2 is scheduled to be released in December 2021.

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