New Zealand Sea Lion Trust chairman Steve Broni shows an artist's impression of a sculpture proposed for Dunedin to commemorate the return of the species to the New Zealand mainland. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The anniversary of the return of New Zealand sea lions to the
mainland after more than 150 years could be commemorated with
a life-size sculpture of the ''matriarch'' of the small Otago
Plans for a sculpture - initially proposed for the Esplanade
at St Clair - were presented to the Dunedin City Council by
New Zealand Sea Lion Trust chairman Steve Broni this week.
Mr Broni said the sculpture would depict a female sea lion,
dubbed ''Mum'', which was born in the subantarctic Auckland
Islands in 1986 before migrating to the Otago coastline.
She produced a female pup at Taieri Mouth in late 1993 - the
first to be born on the New Zealand mainland in more than 150
years, Mr Broni said.
The pair shifted to Otago Peninsula weeks later.
By 1998, Mum had produced two more female pups, Mr Broni
said. All three pups went on to produce their own, helping
re-establish today's population of up to 60 sea lions on the
The population included ''11 to 15'' breeding females,
producing between three and eight pups a year in recent
years, at a time when the species was listed as ''nationally
critical'', he said.
Mum continued to breed until 2007 and was last recorded
ashore in 2010, but was believed to have since died at sea.
Mr Broni told Monday's council public forum meeting the
sculpture of ''Mum'' and her pup would be crafted by Broad
Bay sculptor Bryn Jones.
Mr Jones' previous work included a life-size bronze sculpture
of Sir Edmund Hillary at Mt Cook Village and a bronze cedar
cone at the Dunedin Botanic Garden.
The 2m-long, 1.2m-wide sea lion sculpture was expected to
cost $11,000 and would be made of fibreglass, mounted on a
base representing sand, Mr Broni said.
While still discussing a site with council staff, he
suggested the Esplanade at St Clair - in front of the surf
life-saving club - would be a suitable ''high profile''
location for a sculpture he expected the public would
The trust was still pursuing funding but wanted council
endorsement for the project, which it hoped to complete by
the end of the year, he said.
The sculpture would not only mark the return of the species,
but also raise its public profile and acknowledge its
contribution to the city's wildlife tourism industry, he
''It [Mum] could have chosen anywhere, but it chose Dunedin.
Maybe she found sanctuary there,'' he said.
Trust members would continue to discuss the project with