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Sculpture site issue unresolved

A section of scenic Gisborne waterfront land used by walkers, cyclists and tourists, remains as it has been for nearly two years, a building site surrounded by wire fencing.

The public reserve land near the Waikanae Stream mouth, and in the front of the Harbourview apartments, is the long-proposed site of the Hawaiki Turanga sculpture.

But since the discovery of asbestos on the site, it appears Gisborne District Council and Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust cannot agree on how to remediate the site.

In March 2019 The Gisborne Herald reported wire fencing had been erected on the site.

The discovery of asbestos was later announced and Gisborne District Council said plans for the installation of the 6.3m by 16m sculpture would be put on hold until after the Tuia 250 commemorations of October 2019.

A council spokesman told the Herald last October, “We are discussing the best remediation options with Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust to ensure that the remediation work done is culturally sensitive, as well as ensuring that the site is safe for users”.

The Herald approached the council for comment this week, and also asked if the time delay was of concern.

A spokeswoman said the council was continuing to work with iwi on an agreed approach to site remediation.

“It is the council's responsibility to remediate and ensure this process meets cultural expectations,” she said.

“We are committed to progressing this work as soon as possible.”

Rongowhakaata trust has not replied to Herald inquiries.

Harbourview body corporate chairman Ian Graham said the situation frustrated residents.

Work had started initially and a digger turned up sometime later.

He understood asbestos presented no danger, as long as it remained underground where fibres did not become airborne.

The situation was “a mystery”.

There had been a lack of communication from the council.

Mr Graham said different council officers had been responsible for keeping residents informed, and some had been better than others.

A couple, met by the Herald near the site, said they wanted the site “cleared up” and did not want the sculpture. They did not want to be named.

The sculpture is based on Ruapani, a paramount chief of Turanganui-a-Kiwa who has a common thread to all tribes of Tairawhiti.

The sculpture has two separate pieces. One is the main sculpture representing the front of a wharenui (the Wharenui sculpture) and the other is a poutokomanawa (the centre ridge post of a wharenui) representing Ruapani.

There have been discussions since 1998 on using suitable artwork to acknowledge traditional ownership of the land under “the Watties Accord”.

The iconic Kiwi cannery and food processing company had a plant on the wider site from 1952 to 1997.

A contract to create a Hawaiki Turanga sculpture was awarded in 2011 and a contract signed in 2014.

The Gisborne Herald reported in 2013 the estimated cost of the sculpture was $355,000 with Gisborne District Council contributing $100,000.

The council originally wanted Hawaiki Turanga erected in 2018.

It is believed the sculpture has been completed.

Back in 2015 Harbourview apartment residents were angered over a perceived lack of consultation by Gisborne District Council over the proposed sculpture and its site, and complained that the consent application was not notified.

The council tried to try to reach an agreement between residents and Rongowhakaata.

An independent legal opinion supported the council's handling of the matter.

‘A mystery': The fenced-off site of the proposed Hawaiki Turanga sculpture alongside the popular Gisborne walk and cycleway near the Waikanae Stream mouth remains undeveloped after nearly two years. Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. Ken Ovenden says:

    Perfect spot for an Endeavour model, plus a waka side-by-side and sculptured out of alloy to match (just to show off our skills in modern materials). Perfect.

  2. MICHAEL COCHRANE says:

    Perfect spot for a Paramount Chief, shows unity, and more – especially with Captain Cookie on the other side.

  3. Eric Martin says:

    Hawaiki Turanga sculpture has been a long time coming – be awesome to see the site and sculpture complete 😇🙏