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TV Interview Sparks Backlash Over Town’s Pāua Shell Move

The relocation of an iconic Southland pāua shell has undergone a robust consultation, but not everyone is happy with the end result.

Last November, Southland District Council asked the public where they wanted Riverton’s town icon to be shifted following the sale of its previous site.

More than 400 people responded, with almost half opting for Koi Koi Park, next to the skatepark.

But Ōraka Aparima Community Board chair Michael Weusten said he had copped flack about the new location following a recent television appearance.

“I ended up on TV, it must have been a quiet week . . . talking about pāua relocation,” Weusten said.

“And ever since then, people have been saying “you can’t put it there!”

“The amount of effort that went into surveying … there’s always a tyre kicker somewhere.”

Weusten made the comments at a recent Southland District Council meeting, adding that the board would proceed with the new location.

He later told Local Democracy Reporting that while the task of restoring the shell was now complete — including a new paint job — it would still be some time before it was installed.

“The pāua’s refurbished, it’s still in the factory in Invercargill that repainted it and everything. But we then have to prepare the site works, put in a concrete plinth, and then erect it.

“It’s gonna be two or three months before it’s up, I think.”

Riverton/Aparima's iconic pāua shell was built in the 1990s by a local souvenir shop to advertise the business. It is now the property of the community board. Photo credit: Matthew Rosenberg/LDR.
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The road to restoration has not been smooth for the Riverton shell.

At one point, it almost ended up for public sale when its former owners, Fiordland Souvenirs, looked to part ways with it.

The community board stepped in, finalising payments of $30,000 last year to take over the statue.

A total 431 votes were received as part of the shell’s consultation, with the Koi Koi Park site receiving 203 votes.

Other options included the intersection of Napier St and Bath Rd, Palmerston St playground, Taramea Bay playground and Pilots Reserve Lookout by the whale.

In 1998, the shell featured in the Town Icons stamp series alongside other landmarks such as Paeroa’s L&P bottle and Ohakune’s carrot.

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