Dunedin company backs 'Statue of Liberty' idea

People should not knock the statue of Papatuanuku the Earth Mother overlooking the Waitemata Harbour before understanding the story behind it, says a key player.

Animator Ian Taylor has today released a concept video of the statue to the New Zealand Herald after three out of four people responding to a poll opposed the huge pou, or pole.

It would be as tall as, or taller than New York's Statue of Liberty, which is 46 metres high, and would be situated at the historic headland of Takaparawhau/Bastion Point.

A video, produced by Taylor's Dunedin-based company Animation Research, shows the first proposal for the statue at Wynyard Point on the waterfront two years ago before the idea was picked up by local iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

The iwi has conceived it as Auckland's version of the Statue of Liberty or the 30m Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro, visible in lights at night from across the city, with stunning views from downtown, the North Shore, and from ships and ferries.

Taylor said the idea for the statue came from Maori carvers in Auckland who wanted to use fallen kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges to build a giant pou, or pole, to 

Animations Research Ltd came up with the idea and shares its two-year-old concept of a 40-metre-high pou at Wynyard Point. Photo:Animations Research Ltd via NZ Herald
Animations Research Ltd came up with the idea and shares its two-year-old concept of a 40-metre-high pou at Wynyard Point. Photo:Animations Research Ltd via NZ Herald
tell the story of Rangi (the sky) and Papa (the earth).

The statue would become a tourist attraction for more than one million visitors a year and one of the most photographed sites in New Zealand, he said.

Taylor hoped the project could tie in with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's discovery of New Zealand next year and recognise the power of Maori and Pakeha based on a nation born of sailors.

"I would love it to go on Bastion Point, but if it doesn't go there she should be on the shoreline saying this statue, our Statue of Liberty, recognises mother earth. It's a woman reaching for the sky father above.

"We have a powerful story to tell," he said.

But the project, which Auckland Council has committed $1 million for design and development, came in for criticism from NZ First MP and Northland Maori identity Shane Jones.

He said the hapu of Orakei were going a step too far to exclusively depict Papatuanuku before they get the support of other tribes and put it out in the public arena. Ngati Whatua, who originate from the Kaipara Harbour in the north, especially need to talk to tribes with strong connections to Auckland.

Ian Taylor
Animation Research Ltd chief executive Ian Taylor.

"Culturally they have got off on the wrong foot and allowed their beliefs to cloud the reality of who they are in Maoridom," he said.

Jones said Ngati Whatua o Orakei is Auckland's richest hapu and should pay for the statue themselves.

"I'm astonished that (Mayor) Phil Goff and the council have money for this," he said referring to the new regional fuel tax and infrastructure funding needs.

"The promoters of this Brazilian-style object onto the skyline of Auckland need to take a step back because their efforts resemble mana-munching if not money-munching." Jones said.

He preferred to see Ngati Whatua planting a grove of rimu or totara at Bastion Point.

Most feedback to the Herald on the statue has been negative, and strongly opposed to ratepayer funding.

"While the creation of a giant statue may sound appealing, as a ratepayer, I can't believe that something of this nature will be considered by the Auckland Council.

"We live in a time where everything comes at an exorbitant price in Auckland," said Craig Taylor.

Chris Dunn from Meadowbank said council involvement should be limited to granting planning permission to create the statue.

Said Robert Bowman: "I am strongly opposed to the idea of any statue at the entrance to Auckland Harbour. It is not needed and would only dilute the iconic views seen when the harbour is entered, most notably Rangitoto and the sheer beauty of the place.

The Statue of Liberty is seen at New York Harbor in New York City. Photo: Reuters
The Statue of Liberty is 46 metres high. Photo: Reuters

Paul Ryan liked the idea, saying done correctly and well, it will be good for the country and Auckland.

"The Maori influence will make it uniquely kiwi and should ensure it remains relevant. As opposed to a 'contemporary' designed structure which might become 'out of date' in time," he said.

A video shown at the recent education summit by the chief executive of the iwi's tribal development arm, Rangimarie Hunia, depicted a conceptual design of a shimmering Papatuanuku.

"We are looking for conceptual designs that are timeless, that are majestic, that speak to the human spirit," she said.

The iwi was not ready to release a visualisation of the proposed statue publicly.

"For me, this is all about nationhood," Hunia said.

"This is a legacy for our next generation to be proud of our culture, our history and our identity as ahi kaa ['burning fires' in occupation] in Tamaki."

Mayor Phil Goff said it "has the potential to be an iconic symbol of Auckland".

Our forests may be absorbeing up to 60% more CO2 than we thought. Photo: file
The idea for the statue came from Maori carvers in Auckland who wanted to use fallen kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges to build a giant pou. Photo: file

"It will reflect the unique culture and identity of our city and be enjoyed equally by Maori, the wider community and international visitors," he said.

- additional reporting Anne Gibson

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