Location

The ephemeral nature of New Zealand’s screen production industry presents particular challenges for the introduction of environmentally responsible practices. One of these challenges is reducing the environmental impacts associated with working on location including special effects that may involve the use of fire, explosives, water and artificial snow. With no fixed office or studio base, it can be difficult for productions to develop and maintain environmental management systems. The suggestions below have been developed to assist screen production companies and professionals in managing their environmental impacts on location.

Protected environments

Follow the Department of Conservation guidelines and code of practice for Commercial Filming on Public Conservation Lands and ensure that any concessions required are in place.
Educate cast, crew and extras about why the location is a protected environment.
Minimise the number of vehicles and people at any one location and use transportation and technical equipment respectfully with regard to the landscape and animal habitats.
Ensure all rubbish is well contained while on location, and remove and dispose of all rubbish responsibly.
Cordon off areas that are particularly sensitive and mark the appropriate path for walkways and vehicles. Ensure these paths are also clearly marked on the daily call sheet.
Ensure that the unit is carrying spill kits in the case of a fuel spill.
Evaluate the location when filming is complete to identify any damage that may have occurred during filming. If damage has occurred, ensure it is rectified appropriately and in cooperation with the relevant authorities.


Natural, historical and cultural heritage is protected because it is special. For that very reason, these sites are highly desirable as film sets. Working sensitively and collaborating with the relevant authorities such as the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) is essential for the success of the production. Failure to gain permission from the relevant authorities and follow requirements can lead to enforcement action, prosecution, adverse publicity, and spoil it for other producers wishing to use the location – a risk not worth taking.

Vertical Limit sets new environmental standards and sets a precedent for working with the Department of Conservation (DOC)

Principal photography for the film was in New Zealand and the locations used were in the mountainous regions around Mt. Cook and Queenstown. There were two days of filming at Nazomi Ridge and the movie's K2 base camp was set up in the upper reaches of the ski field in The Remarkables, a mountain range near the resort town of Queenstown. The location for the Pakistani Military Base was Turret Head near Mt Earnshaw which was only accessible by helicopter. A number of significant locations were created in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park in such places as the Annette Plateau and Mt Hamilton. As well as the extensive location shooting, some sequences for the movie were created in a 20,000 square foot refrigerated sound stage that was built near Queenstown.

The choice of some of the locations for Vertical Limit was not without controversy and environmental groups kept the production under scrutiny. Some of the environmental initiatives used during Vertical Limit included:

New Zealand Guidelines and Protocols for Filming on Location

  • Department of Conservation: Commercial filming on public conservation lands.
  • Department of Conservation and Film New Zealand: Code of Practice. Filming on Public Conservation Lands.
  • Local Government New Zealand, Film New Zealand and Industry New Zealand: The New Zealand Local Government Filming Protocol: A Guide to Location Filming.
  • Nga- Aho Whakaari – Maori in Film & Video: General Guidelines and Protocols for Filming within Iwi (Tribal) Boundaries.
  • Nga-i Tahu and the Screen Producers and Directors Association: Guideline for Filming within the Rohe of Nga-i Tahu.
  • Queenstown Lakes District Council: Green Screen Guide
  • · Regional Resource Guides for Auckland, Rotorua, Taranaki, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

    ' Vertical Limit continued

  • A contractor employed by DOC as well as members of staff from DOC monitored all the filming on location.
  • Excellent world-renowned New Zealand mountaineers and imported Canadian film safety crew broke new ground on how to work in environmentally sensitive areas
  • On location, a site was set up specially for refueling vehicles. This was designed so that all fuel spillage was contained in one area with an impervious lining so that only a small amount of covering soil was contaminated and could be easily disposed of in an appropriate way.
  • Holes created by the climbers in the rock faces on Mount Cook were repaired with resin made with ground up rock
  • Specific loading pads were created by laying an absorbent blanket underneath the snow to collect helicopter residue
  • All items that were not commercially sensitive were sold off at the end of the production. The most commercially sensitive items were retained by the studios. A very small number of items were destroyed.
  • 2009 Code of Practice for Filming on Public Conservation Lands

    A collective commitment by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Film New Zealand (Film NZ) to improve the permit process has streamlined the Code of Practice for Filming on Public Conservation Lands, released to the screen production industry in December 2009.

    Code of Practice - Filming on Public Conservation Lands.pdf - 191kb

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