UPDATE: Hemo sculpture could be up by Saturday

An artist's impression of the finished Hemo roundabout sculpture - Te Ahi Tupua. Picture/Supplied

It's more than three years behind schedule and more than $200,000 over budget but now the Hemo gorge sculpture finally has a likely installation date.

The 12m high 3D printed sculpture - named Te Ahi Tupua - was originally due to be installed in July 2017 and in March last year council documents revealed the cost of installing and creating the sculpture had risen to $743,029, an estimated $204,361 overspend.

The Rotorua Lakes Council has confirmed the sculpture could be in place this Saturday, weather dependent.

"The initial part of the installation operation, which involves use of a helicopter to move the artwork, is planned for the next fortnight," the council says in a statement.

"The earliest day for transportation is Saturday 12 September. The helicopter operation is strictly weather dependent so while preparation is underway for the earliest opportunity, changes to the forecast could mean transporting Te Ahi Tupua on another day. 
 
"The size and shape of the sculpture means the best method of transportation is via a speciality helicopter. The flight path will take the sculpture in two separate trips from Kilwell Fibretube on Te Ngae Rd to Te Puia carpark next to the roundabout.
 
"Once the sculpture reaches Te Puia carpark, a crane will lift the sculpture in its two separate pieces and lower them into the roundabout," the statement reads.

What you need to know:

- There is a limited window of availability for the helicopter. Saturday 12 September is the earliest date for installation.

- The helicopter flight plan avoids all residential areas

- Transportation to Te Puia carpark will take place early in the morning from 6.30am.

- The following temporary traffic management and closures will be in place on the day of the helicopter operation from 6.00am – 10.30am:

- Pedestrian/bike entry to the paths under Hemo roundabout will be closed and will have to use alternative routes.

- Entry to Te Puia carpark (next to the roundabout) will be closed to pedestrians, bikes and vehicles; the main entrance to Te Puia will remain open.

- Stop/Go traffic management will be in place at each arm of the SH5/SH30 Hemo Road roundabout. Motorists may experience delays of up to 10 minutes during this time.

- Stop/Go traffic management will also be in place for short periods of time at Vaughan Road (behind Puketawhero Park), SH30/Te Ngae Road (east of Eastgate Business Park and outside the Rotorua Airport) and Tarawera Road (near intersection with Okareka Loop Road), where the helicopter will cross over public roads. Motorists may experience delays of up to 5 minutes at these locations.

Following installation, the team from Kilwell Fibretube will be finishing parts of the construction that can only be done once it is in place within the roundabout.

This work is weather dependent but is expected to take about two weeks and the roundabout (and the shared paths underneath) will be open during this time.

Kilwell Fibretube chief executive Craig Wilson says the installation of the structure would be dependent on three main factors - helicopter availability, traffic approvals and management, and the weather.

“All three things that continually change.” 

The installation of the sculpture was due to take place last Sunday but those plans were abandoned as it was, in part, “a bit windy”, Wilson says.

“There’s still a bit on the go. We’re still trying to get the ducks in a row.”

The sculpture at Kilwell Fibretube on Te Ngae Rd. Photo/Andrew Warner/NZME

Beck Helicopters managing director Alan Beck says the company would no longer be transporting the sculpture as it was “too heavy”.

Council documents released to the Rotorua Daily Post stated that in November 2018, the sculpture was estimated to weigh about 3450kg and would be transported in two parts.

Rotorua Lakes Council operations manager Jocelyn Mikaere says the transportation method had not changed, just the company undertaking it.

“Kahu NZ has been engaged to carry out the transport part of the install."

The change was to ensure the helicopter could comfortably manage the size and shape of the sculpture.

“Once the sculpture gets to the carpark at Te Puia, the helicopter will set it down and a crane will lower it into place within the roundabout.”

Asked what the impact would be to the cost of the transfer and installation of the sculpture, Mikaere said Kilwell Fibretube was “responsible for the installation of Te Ahi Tupua including costs”.

Wilson confirmed the costs were incorporated as part of a contract with the council.

Kahu NZ and NZTA have been approached for comment.

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