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How a sleepy country town became Hobbiton

News from Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Nov 21 2012, 4:29am


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A decade ago, Matamata was a sleepy country town in the middle of the North Island, well-placed for travellers in need of a comfort stop and a takeaway snack. Today, it is better known as Hobbiton and is one of the country's star tourist destinations, attracting 1.9 million visitors over the last 10 years. It is poised for a fresh invasion starting this Christmas which seems certain to top that number over the next decade.

It all began in 1998 when movie director Peter Jackson took to the sky in a small plane in search sites to film his planned trilogy of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

His target was a piece of countryside untouched by concrete buildings, power poles and roads that he could transform into Hobbiton, the primitive village home of Tolkien's small, hairy, Hobbit people.

A family farm outside Matamata, set about halfway between the provincial capital, Hamilton, and the tourist city of Rotorua, and complete with Tolkien's so-called "party tree" and a lake, proved perfect.

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