Hemo sculpture delays labelled ‘appalling’

Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers chairwoman Glenys Searancke. (File) Photo / Felix Desmarais / LDR

A community leader has described the time it has taken to finalise the installation of the Hemo gorge sculpture as “appalling” and says, in her opinion, the sculpture does not live up to expectations.

Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers chairwoman Glenys Searancke says the sculpture - named Te Ahi Tupua - is “disappointing”. However another group says delays were to be expected and that it was “an incredible piece of public art”.

Searancke says the sculpture isn’t very visible and blends into the background.

"It's not as imposing as we thought it would be. It's a good thing and a bad thing. It means people aren't gawking at it as they go around the roundabout, but it's far less impressive.”

She says the time it has taken between the transferral of the sculpture from Kilwell's warehouse to finishing and officially opening the sculpture was "appalling".

"The [district] council should be concentrating on one project at a time. They've got all these balls in the air.

Searancke - also a former district councillor - says ratepayers need to know if the lighting of the sculpture is going ahead and, if so, whether the costs of that lighting have been incorporated.

She says, in her view, it is "definitely not" worth the $743,029 spent on it.

On September 15, Rotorua Lakes Council operations manager Jocelyn Mikaere said the sculpture’s inner helix had taken “more manoeuvering than expected” to get it in place as the tolerances were “very tight between the helices”.

The inner helix was temporarily fixed in place within the outer helix in order to restore traffic flow on the day of installation, she said.

Te Ahi Tupua, the Hemo Gorge sculpture, on Tuesday.

At the time Mikaere confirmed parts of the sculpture had been temporarily removed to finish installation of the inner helix to the base plinth, and it was expected the installation would be completed “over the next few weeks”.

Evolve chairperson and local artist Kelly Shrimpton told the Rotorua Daily Post it would have been “lovely” to see the sculpture finished sooner but “it seems to me [the council are] just doing what they can to get it up”.

She says delays are “possibly not unexpected” with structures as big as Te Ahi Tupua.

“Whilst it’s been costly, it’s an incredible piece of public art and an asset to Rotorua.

“Artists need to be paid a fair price for their work. It’s unfortunate it cost so much in the process of manufacture.”

She says the artwork is “gorgeous” from the cycleway below the roundabout, and queried how much more it would have cost ratepayers if the sculpture had been as big as it was in original concept art.

On Thursday last week at a Strategy Policy and Finance committee meeting, district councillor Reynold Macpherson queried if the sculpture was structurally sound.

“Questions have been raised publicly … about the structural integrity of the Hemo sculpture. The analysis only used probability theory and to reassure the public on health and safety implications, can an independent structural engineer please be engaged to evaluate the structural integrity of the sculpture?”

In reply to Macpherson at the meeting, council chief executive Geoff Williams said a composite structural engineer overseeing the installation of the structure said there was “no issue with the strength of the structure”.

Evolve chairperson Kelly Shrimpton. Photo / Vaughna Palmer / Supplied

Williams clarified installation was still under way at that time, and Kilwell - the company engaged by the council to build and install the sculpture - had installed temporary security stays at the engineer’s request “as additional support whilst it is being installed”.

The controversial 12m high 3D printed sculpture was more than three years behind schedule and more than $200,000 over budget.

It was originally due to be installed in July 2017.

Kilwell Fibretube chief executive Craig Wilson was approached for comment.

Searancke’s comments were put to the council for right of reply but the council did not respond in time for the deadline.

The council was also asked to comment on the timeline of installation, whether the sculpture had been further damaged in order to install it and if there were any further cost implications, but did not provide a response in time for the deadline.

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