AFP – New Zealand is seeing multi-million-dollar signs as the first film based on JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy premiers, media reported.

The New Line Cinema series made by New Zealand’s Peter Jackson was filmed for more than four years around here and is to premier in London on December 10.

But a rather grumpy farmer, who provided the land for “Hobbiton”, is not about to open his farm gate.

“One thing you can be sure of, I certainly won’t be letting people … on to the farm,” Matamata farmer Ian Alexander told the Waikato Times daily.

“I don’t want tribes of people visiting the farm 24 hours, seven days a week.”

Tolkien’s classic has inspired hard-core followers and during the filming Jackson was obliged to hire extensive security and impose fierce secrecy deals.

New Zealand is used to cult movie followers.

“The Piano”, which took the Palme d’Or at Cannes and three Oscars, has attracted thousands to the beach it was shot at — despite the movie having been mostly of rain and mud.

Indian filmmakers, who have begun flocking to the Southern Alps for scenes showing the hero and heroine singing and cavorting on hillsides, are helping boost New Zealand’s tourism.

“Lord of the Rings”, starring Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen and Liv Tyler, is being touted as several magnitudes greater than all that.

The Evening Post in Wellington last week reported Prime Minister Helen Clark has designated a cabinet minister “Lord and Minister of the Rings”. Energy Minister Pete Hodgson will co-ordinated a multi- million dollar package to cash in on new Zealand’s connection.

This sort of interest has led to some Auckland travel operators and Tolkien fans forming a company, Red Carpet Tours, to cater solely to Rings junkies.

Red Carpet Tours chief executive Vic James, who runs another Auckland-based company, said international interest in the project was so big he had approached dedicated Rings fan Erica Challis to help him and two others set up and develop a tour around New Zealand.

“We have got heaps of replies and interest from people who want to come from all over the world,” Challis said.

The films were shot over a wide area of New Zealand, including Matamata, Tongariro National Park and in Wellington in the North Island, as well as Queenstown (also popular with the Bombay film industry) and Methven, near Christchurch.

The castle sets on Mount Somers near Methven have tended to become the icon for the project here with its bare plains in the foreground and towering Southern Alps behind it.