"Attracting large budget film productions here offers wider benefits to the economy, including increased opportunities for New Zealanders as well as tourism benefits from having New Zealand locations shown to an international audience"
There's a delusional fantasy here in New Zealand that this country can continue to survive as a tourist destination based purely on the stunning vistas offered by a few mountains and some forests. Oh, sure, it probably looks nice enough to someone who hasn't seen it before... but having to travel here is expensive, and there's not a lot to do once you've hiked up a hill and said "Yes, very pretty". Despite this the government runs some strong advertising campaigns based on the premise that tourism is the way to go. One of the best-known is called "The Lord of the Rings".
You see, there's various grounds for granting money to film productions here: fostering New Zealand culture; promoting local creative endeavours; creating jobs; and of course making sure everyone overseas sees the mountains and then comes here to see the mountains again in person, spending a lot of money while they're here. Hence why the government sunk a whole heap of money into the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This country did, in fact, see some increase in tourism thanks to those films. Since an industry entirely devoted to producing nothing and fleecing foreigners is seen as a great basis for the entire economy, they had to dump some more money into local films after the flow of tourist dollars resulting from The Return of the King dried up.
Some of the other films that have been partially financed by the New Zealand Government are King Kong, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - films that were actually filmed here. As in, they took a camera out and filmed something that actually exists. Even if a lot of the visuals in King Kong were courtesy of Weta Digital, the movie was still made entirely in this country. The logic behind tax breaks for film production in many countries is loosely that the benefits of job creation and a pile of external revenue being thrown into the economy more than outweighs the lost tax revenue. Presumably the same logic applies to the money spent by the New Zealand Government from the Large Budget Screen Production Grant.
When there's no complete film to dump money on, the government contributes to the portion of filming that takes place here, provided the amount being spent here fits the criteria (the criteria is "spending millions of dollars here"). That's fine enough, but they've also decided to sink money into things like post production work. The government contributed $45 million (more exactly, $44.69 million - but close enough) to Weta Digital for their work on Avatar. But as the quote at the start of this piece shows, the government thinks this is promoting local tourism by showcasing New Zealand locations.
Think about that for a moment.
"Avatar has set a new standard for visual effects and this showcases our capability in what is a high value, high technology sector of our economy."
What has been best showcased to the people who get the films made - the producers - is that they will be given a huge subsidy for simply farming out CGI and post-production to a New Zealand company. Our government is apparently borrowing a billion dollars a month to run the country, so how can they afford to subsidise film projects? Film projects which won't provide any of the long-term financial benefits they use to justify the investment of said money? No, really - the whole point of Avatar is that it doesn't look like anything real. The justification for investing public money into it is that it will promote tourism... To a place that doesn't exist.
There's no mention of a grant for the actual filming that was done here. Presumably that's covered in the $45 million, since it was doubtless for motion capture purposes.
Leaving aside the innumerable comments about the recycled retread that comprises the actual plot, I've heard Avatar is quite good as a visual experience. However, none of the reviews or discussions I've seen compare anything in it to the scenery in this country. I'd go and see it for myself and make a proper assessment, but I can't afford it right now - perhaps the government can give me some money, too?
The italicised quotes are from Gerry Brownlee, Economic Development Minister for New Zealand, and a complete idiot.