M:I6 shoot’s safety worries

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Filming in Skippers: But were the public adequately protected from these M:I6 choppers ?

Safety concerns are being raised about Tom Cruise’s film crew shooting a helicopter chase for Mission: Impossible 6 near Queenstown.

QT Photo Tours owner Blair Pattinson witnessed manoeuvres by three helicopters over and under the Skippers Canyon Bridge for about 40 minutes on July 8.

He complained to the Civil Aviation Authority, Queenstown’s council and the Department of Conservation two days later.

All three are investigating, but not saying much.

Pattinson – a freelance snapper for the Scene– reckons the stunt flying thinks health and safety plans were lacking.

“For me to operate on DoC land I have to comply with health and safety guidelines.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a one-man operator or a massive movie production – the public shouldn’t be put at risk.

“These guys didn’t seem to do that in this instance … for this particular scene I feel it was lacking.”

City Hall granted DWTT Productions – a subsidiary of US movie giant Viacom – a resource consent.

DWTT boss Peter Garner, an Aucklander, couldn’t be contacted by Mountain Scene yesterday.

DoC also granted DWTT a permit to film on public land.

Health and safety beef: Blair Pattinson

Pattinson was with two clients when he stumbled across the shoot for the Hollywood block-buster, involving five helicopters.

A member of the production crew, dropped off by helicopter, told them they couldn’t be there as they were “in the way of filming”, he says.

The production crew member told Pattinson to park on the other side of the bridge and stop vehicles trying to cross.

Helicopters flew under and over the Skippers bridge in different sequences, to the rat-tat-tat of fake gun-fire. Pattinson’s floored no traffic management was in place.

“I can only assume they were highly-trained helicopter pilots but still, risk mitigation was not there.

“I am no expert but I can imagine a traffic management plan would need to be in place to block the bridge off to traffic and members of the public to ensure their safety.”

Pattinson admits the area can be quiet but stresses tourists often get out and wander across the bridge to take photos.

On the day of filming one vehicle was behind him and two more approached the bridge during the 40-minute shoot.

CAA confirms an investigation is under way – but the Scene’s enquiry’s being treated as an Official Information Request.

DoC’s code of practice sets out strict guidelines for “some level of monitoring of the activities and effects of the film crew”.

But local ranger Susie Geh confirms no staffers witnessed the shoot as it was considered “low impact”.

DoC Queenstown boss Geoff Owen wouldn’t comment on alleged dangerous flying – kicking those questions to council and CAA.

City Hall regulatory boss Lee Webster confirms it’s investigating but it won’t comment until the investigation’s completed.

Pattinson says that’s not good enough.

“If we hadn’t been in the way, and if they were already filming, we could have driven straight on to the bridge.

“They wouldn’t have been able to pull out of their manoeuvre if we did that.

“I could have literally driven on there when two helicopters were flying within metres of me on either side of the bridge.”

louises@scene.co.nz