Matthew Theunissen, Reporter
An Auckland hapu is considering building a statue on Bastion Point that could be as big as the Statue of Liberty in the United States or Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
An Auckland hapu is considering building a statue on Bastion Point. Photo: Google Maps
A preliminary proposal by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei was shown to Auckland councillors last week and their first impressions appear to have been positive.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has thrown his support behind the proposal, which could see a statue up to 50 metres tall on the coastal land at Ōrākei.
Initial plans are for a statue of the Māori earth mother Papatūānuku, who would greet ships as they pass through the Waitematā Harbour.
Having a statue that reflected Auckland's unique identity and Māori culture would be a great asset to the city, he said.
"I really like the idea of it - something that marks Auckland out as being different from the rest of the world, something that reflects our indigenous culture and identity."
Mr Goff said the statue would ideally be ready in time for the America's Cup and APEC summit in Auckland in 2021.
While the project would be led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, the council has earmarked $100,000 for the concept development phase and a further $900,000 for its implementation.
"We have a budget that we put aside every year for works of public art. Often they're quite small and not particularly noticeable. This, I think, would be much more outstanding," Mr Goff said.
"It would mark the city out, it would be iconic for the city and, I think from the initial conceptual designs, something really exciting could come out of it."
Bastion Point on Auckland's Tamaki Drive was the site of some of the country's most significant protests in the 1970s and has come to symbolise Māori land issues.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust spokesperson Ngarimu Blair said the idea was being considered from a Māori tourism perspective.
He said indigenous tourism opportunities were not being fully realised.
"It's a huge industry - it's one of our biggest sectors and we know in the Auckland region there are few Māori tourism experiences. We need them, they add to our economy and they tell the story of our country."
The idea was reported by some media on Sunday, but Mr Blair said the proposal for the statue should not have been made public at such an early stage and stressed that it was just one of the options being considered by the trust.
"It is a bit premature - we're investigating Māori tourism opportunities across the whole region with other tribes and then across our own land.
"This idea has gotten out there but it is just an idea and [there is] a hell of a lot of work to go under the bridge before any decisions are made by our trust board."
Despite still being in its embryonic stages, the proposal was well received when it was shown to Auckland Council earlier this week.