Films buoy builders
It was about 10 years ago when Matamata builder Darren Roa first agreed to ‘‘fix a few of the hobbit holes’’ on the Alexander farm.
Filming of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy had wrapped but curious Tolkien fans continued to show an interest in the remote property.
Russell Alexander, now the managing director of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, asked Mr Roa to help him repair what was left of the temporary film set.
More than 200,000 people have since visited Hobbiton, and when the idea surfaced to rebuild the iconic Green Dragon pub, Mr Alexander wanted Mr Roa for the job.
‘‘When we started [in May last year] the plans still weren’t finished,’’ Mr Roa said.
‘‘We just had to make it work, so we could be a little creative.’’
Under the direction of The Hobbit art director Brian Massey, Mr Roa and his team spent six months working on the unique build.
‘‘There’s no other building in New Zealand like the Green Dragon,’’ he said. ‘‘It was way, way different to anything we had worked on before – the plans are totally different, the aging of the timber . . . but the architect and the designer were very, very good at their jobs.’’
Mr Roa’s team worked alongside Wellington-based set builders to complete the job in time to coincide with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on November 28.
‘‘The hardest part was we should have started a month or two earlier, so there was a lot of pressure in getting it done and it was basically finished the day before,’’ Mr Roa said.
‘‘Sometimes we were working up to 60 or 70 hours a week.
‘‘Working through winter was pretty trying. We had a lot of rain and there was about a month we were working in mud up to our knees.’’
Mr Roa managed the construction side, and was responsible for putting up framing, beams and gib board, as well as some of the intricate interior.
It was a step outside the comfort zone for the team, who typically work on houses and residential alterations.
‘‘We learned a lot doing The Green Dragon. It was very interesting work.’’
With five weeks to go until the official opening, Mr Roa handed over to the set designers to complete the project and moved on to an equally unusual project – the i-SITE Gatehouse.
‘‘The i-SITE was a lot easier because everything we did there, we had already done at the Green Dragon,’’ Mr Roa said.
With an equally tight deadline to meet, Mr Roa and his team continued to put in the overtime.
‘‘Funnily enough, we actually enjoyed the long hours,’’ he said.
‘‘We were happy to finish though, because we were all getting pretty tired.’’
Mr Roa said working on The Green Dragon had been the highlight of his building career.
‘‘It does blow quite a few people away when they walk in there.’’
One of a kind: The Green Dragon pub at Hobbiton.