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Maui's giant catch to be dramatic Capital gateway

NEWS RELEASE 6 December 2008

Maui's giant catch to be dramatic Capital gateway

Long-awaited approval has been given for Hook of Maui and Receding Waters - a dramatic sculptural 'gateway' to central Wellington from the north.

Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee has agreed that the project, started in 2003, should proceed to the construction stage.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast is thrilled that the artwork - stretching for several kilometres and jointly funded by the City Council and private donations - is going ahead at last.

"It was over five years ago when we decided the city needed something vibrant and exciting to form a memorable gateway to the city from the north," says Mayor Prendergast. "We wanted people to be in no doubt that they are arriving in New Zealand's Creative Capital."

"We asked the Wellington Sculpture Trust to look after the selection and commissioning process - and what we got is a sculptural and active artwork representing one of our country's greatest stories with stunning technological and artistic flair. The project has the support of local iwi including the Wellington Tenths Trust and Ngati Kahungunu - and I personally can't wait to see it finished."

The collaborative design team includes filmmaker Taika Waititi, landscape architect Megan Wraight and Swiss-New Zealand lighting designer and installation artist Claude Hibder.

Te Matau a Maui - the Hook of Maui - is a giant fish hook with a shaft up to 35 metres in height. It would be 'embedded' on the seaward side of the Wellington motorway between Ngauranga and Kaiwharawhara, adjacent to the southern entrance to the No. 1 tunnel on the Main Trunk rail line. The 'sharp' end of the hook, about 14 metres high, would 'emerge' on the opposite side of the motorway from the shaft.

The steel and glass-fibre sculpture would be a symbolic depiction of the Maori creation myth associated with Maui, a celebrated Maori ancestor, and his significance to Wellington. According to legend, Maui fished up Te Ika a Maui - the North Island. Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui - Wellington - is considered the 'head of the fish'.

The towering sculpture is inspired by traditional Maori whalebone fish hooks in Te Papa's collections. By day, the glass-fibre sheathing would be coloured to give the appearance of bone. Solar-powered photo-electric cells near the top of the shaft would generate electricity during daytime to help light the sculpture by night. The shafts would be lit up from within - and the lighting would alter according to the tides in the adjacent harbour. A laser beam, shooting into the night sky from the tall shaft, would symbolise the fishing line attached to the hook.

Hook of Maui would be located at the top of a rise in the motorway where it crosses the rail lines from the Hutt Valley. As such, it would appear to be pulling up the ground under the motorway.

Receding Waters is a series of light sculptures that would be located at intervals further south along the motorway - on retaining walls and overbridge supports - all the way to the Terrace Tunnel entrance. At night the lights would shimmer and pulsate, giving the impression of water rushing off the giant fish as it is pulled from the sea.

Mayor Prendergast says Wellington's "sense of place and Cultural Capital status will be greatly enhanced by this spectacular symbol of the creation story. I think it is fitting that this legend greets people at the gates of New Zealand's Capital City".

Sculpture Trust Chair Neil Plimmer says Hook of Maui and Receding Waters "is a brilliant combination of a strong and attractive art work with a dramatic narrative about New Zealand's origins. The visual representations of the hook and the waters are elegant and easily recognisable while the story is one that all New Zealanders can relate to.

"It will be accessible to international visitors too - I can imagine tour coach drivers will love telling the Maui story to passengers as they arrive in the city."

The Trust's selection panel was particularly impressed with the sequence of elements that make up the total work. "The story of the North Island's uplift is reinforced like watching a movie, as people move towards the city.

"Overall the panel and its advisers were elated that such an impressive and appropriate proposal had been advanced - no-one could imagine a better outcome for a gateway to the Capital."

Mayor Prendergast says Wellingtonians may wonder why such a project is being launched during difficult economic times. The sculpture will cost a predicted total of $1,327,000 - $666,588 of which was provided by the City Council from funds set aside in the 2003/04 and 2004/05 Annual Plans and the Public Art Fund. The remaining $660,412 was donated by private-sector contributions, trusts and in-kind contributions.

"Put simply, the allocated money from the City Council was already transferred to the Wellington Sculpture Trust years ago - some of which will have already been spent in the selection process," says the Mayor.

"The Council hasn't spent any money on the project in the last few years and, thanks to our private benefactors, we won't need to spend any more on it aside from general expenses such as maintenance. So, to not go ahead with something that will ultimately lift the city's spirits as the end of the harder financial times approach would be both illogical and wasteful."

"We have some short-term belt-tightening issues as a city because of the global economic downturn - but the Council is now well-advanced in its plans on how to manage its way through and keep rates down.

"We have made a conscious decision as a Council not to simply cut or defer elements of our work programme that help to make the city what it is - a city that values its history, heritage, culture and creativity.

"It's about showing we have confidence in the future of the city - and prioritising investment in the right areas. I am particularly grateful that a generous group of benefactors, mainly from the business community, have also seen fit to invest in this fantastic gateway project."

The designers, working with Council staff, will now start the process of applying for resource consents for the sculptures. All going well, the installations could be in place within 18 months.


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