Controversial sculpture set for repaint

The Hemo Gorge sculpture was helicoptered into place in September 2020, more than three years after its original installation date. Photo: Benn Bathgate/Stuff.

Rotorua’s controversial Hemo Gorge sculpture is set to undergo maintenance, just 18-months after it was finally installed.

The sculpture, believed to be the largest 3D-printed sculpture in the world, has been dogged by cost blowouts and delays since it was first mooted by Rotorua Lakes Council in 2015.

Initially set to cost $500,000, the final cost was $743,029 and it was finally helicoptered into place in September 2020.

Rotorua Lakes Council says the scaffolding will be erected around the sculpture, called Te Ahi Tupua, for what is expected to be a two-month paint job.

“It is just the repainting,” says Rotorua Lakes Council community public arts advisor Marc Spijkerbosch.

“There is no cost to council.

“An issue was noted by [makers] Kilwell during an annual inspection and wash down. Our understanding is that it was an issue with the paint itself.”

The original plan to use stainless steel had to be abandoned over weight fears and the project was delayed until December 2017 when Kilwell came forward with a plan to make the design using 3D printing.

Its eventual cost was $743,029, paid for by Rotorua Lakes Council, the NZTA and other local funders.

The artwork also drew criticism from the Taxpayers’ Union and lobby group Rotorua District Residents & Ratepayers, with a sign placed ahead of the sculpture back in December 2020 warning “monumental waste ahead. Cost $743,000 and counting”.

The 12m tall carbon-printed sculpture designed by the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia and created by Kilwell Sports Ltd was inspired by the famous Pōhutu Geyser, weaving the stories of Ngātoroirangi, connections to other tribal groups and manaakitanga/hospitality.

-Stuff/Benn Bathgate.

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