There are two three pieces of new regarding The Hobbit production that is prepping to start up next year. The first is the rumor that Saoirse Ronan has been cast in the film. The actress shoots down the rumor telling The Irish Times, "No, nothing has actually been confirmed yet. I'd love to get a role in The Hobbit. I think everybody in the world would like a role in The Hobbit." I would not be surprised if something comes up for her in one of the two films.
The second piece of news is that The Hobbit production has been denied access to shoot at or around Mount Ngauruhoe. The mountain was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However since those films have been made the area has been declared scared ground by a local Maori tribe in New Zealand. The NZ Herald reports, "the moviemakers could instead fall back on Mt Taranaki and the Southern Alps. Location scouts have visited Taranaki, and Jackson is said to have flown into Queenstown recently to inspect the mountain-ringed Lake Wanaka." Considering some film making jiujutsu was used to make the mountain look the way it did for the trilogy, finding a replacement is more of an issue of inconvenience cost and than a problem for visual continuity for the films. (via Dark Horizons)
Last is an official casting call for Elves in New Zealand for the film according to The One Ring. If you don't live in the country, not news of value but does indicate that the film will make use of the race once again, likely with city visits and in battle scenes.