A $1.5 million sculpture funded by Auckland ratepayers

July 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Of all the plans for Queens Wharf, none has invited as much debate as the planned $1.5 million sculpture of a state house featuring a 4.5 tonne Venetian glass chandelier.

Yet any discussion can be no more than conjecture because the public is being denied images.

The says concept outlines are still being developed and will be released as soon as they are finalised.

That is not good enough.

Anything is better than nothing. The available images should be released if the council wants to avoid the suspicion that it is trying to put a lid on controversy.

There is much to be debated. Is the two-storey state house, to be built on a blue basalt plinth, a suitable object at the end of the wharf?

Or will it be, as the Waitemata Local Board contends, an out-of-place intrusion that will impede sea views? Would it, in fact, be better located at Wynyard Pt?

Why was the cost allowed to balloon out beyond the plentiful $1 million gifted by Barfoot & Thompson? And given the necessity for ratepayer funding, why has the project been fast-tracked with scant regard for normal council procedure?

It’s not clear if the $1.5 million is the ratepayer contribution, or just $500,000. But either amount is too much.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a cultural philistine. I’m actually a member of the Wellington Sculpture Trust. When a Council has its books in order, and rates are not rising faster than inflation, then some investment in stuff such as sculptures can be okay. But Auckland Council is in a funding crisis. It is not business as normal. $100,000 on curtains and $1.5 million on a sculpture are luxuries that it can’t afford.

UPDATE: I understand that the Auckland Council has underwritten the Parekowhai sculpture to $500,000.

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35 Responses to “A $1.5 million sculpture funded by Auckland ratepayers”

  1. CHFR (229 comments) says:

    Oh but it is OK as it is OPM.

    If the council is so keen on spending $500,000 then they can give up their salaries to pay for it.

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  2. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    And so it goes on. When will rate payers and citizens of Auckland wake up to the fact their Council continues to waste money with gay abandon, while paying a million dollars in interest a day on the massive debt it has accrued?

    Perhaps televised rugby matches need strap lines on the bottom of the screen showing a debt / interest clock. maybe then it will permeate. God help us – 7 billion and rising.

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  3. holysheet (386 comments) says:

    It’s been said a thousand times before, but I’ll say it one more time.

    “IT’S DIFFERENT WHEN LABOUR DO IT”!!!

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  4. thePeoplesFlag (245 comments) says:

    The Auckland council is not in the middle of a funding crisis. No matter how often you repeat it, a lie is still a lie.

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  5. JC (956 comments) says:

    “The Auckland council is not in the middle of a funding crisis”

    Quite right. As its bankers know Red Len can and does simply raise rates to cover city debt.

    Its the rate payers who have the financial crisis.

    JC

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  6. Tarquin North (297 comments) says:

    This lot make the Whangarei council look incredibly prudent, even fiscally responsible – I never thought I’d say that! Thank Christ I don’t live in Auckland.

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  7. Nostalgia-NZ (5,201 comments) says:

    They can’t keep the waterways and harbour clean so a pile of crap in Len’s office would be more appropriate. Auckland needs drain filter covers and discharge storm water filters into the harbour. Spend money on that.

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  8. Griff (7,694 comments) says:

    Whangarei council look incredibly prudent,
    :lol:
    fucken wasted thirty thousand dollars for three flag poles and henwaster flags at Langs beach.
    No foot paths or street lighting but who cares when there is three pointless ugly flags fluttering up the place

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  9. NK (1,243 comments) says:

    Yeah, there’s no “funding crisis” because there is a plethora of funding options available to Len from road charges to toilet taxes to taxes if you live near a new bus stop (check that one out!). The debt is ballooning but Len is inventing many funding options to cover that.

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  10. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Good morning Nos’ …..

    Might you good Auckland folks try a sculpture contest???? Like the one that (on J Tizard/H Clark’s watch) produced the musical shite house for some esoteric arts and farts contest in Europe a few ago. No ???
    Seriously ….. 900 planners and 600 policy analysts (or other way around?). Lord help you, Brown will never.
    Have a good one :-)

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  11. Manolo (13,767 comments) says:

    The Jafas and their council, led by Len the Lecher, have lost the plot.

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  12. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    And soon after everyone will have forgotten about it. How many people remember Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Torso II’ which the then Auckland City Council paid a fortune for and AFAIK is sitting in the Art Gallery’s storerooms.

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  13. Tarquin North (297 comments) says:

    Tip of the iceberg there Griff, but at least we didn’t get shafted for the Hundertwasser Centre.

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  14. Maggy Wassilieff (393 comments) says:

    I am a cultural philistine. I’d love it if Sculpture Trusts would stop imposing their pieces on public open space.

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  15. Nostalgia-NZ (5,201 comments) says:

    Morning flipper. So 1500 planners and policy analysts in total, more than 1.5 million per week in wages for that alone – a good place to target savings straight away. But instead the bloody idiots want to sell off community halls that have less than 1500 pa costs. In Len’s world save 1500 by spending 150,000 with inflated staff numbers. But don’t worry at any minute his head is going to collapse, the vacuum affect from being emptied of pressurised hot air. We all love him of course, he’s working for the people and has the people’s mandate, he has vision, compassion and bright dreams of Auckland being the most modern city in the world. Though his number might be up because some clever engineer has asked Len to inspect the holding tanks at the brown water treatment plant – figuring that once Len is floating around in Auckland crap he’ll be unable to distinguished and eventually become clean water fit for discharge into the Manukau.

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  16. Fentex (974 comments) says:

    But Auckland Council is in a funding crisis.

    According to an article in the Herald by a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and chair of the 2007 Independent Commission of Inquiry into Local Government Rates, Aucklands accounts….

    The Auckland Council’s latest audited financial statements (for the 2012/13 year) show an operating surplus of $246 million and total assets of $37 billion against debt of $8 billion.

    A claim of ‘crisis’ seems unsupported.

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  17. Griff (7,694 comments) says:

    didn’t get shafted for the Hundertwasser Centre.
    haven’t been shafted yet
    The persons responsible are still there still attempting to get their versions of culture paid for by us ratepayers philistines.
    I see Waipu has a few tens of thousand dollars worth of tartan flags fluttering as well.
    Clan tartan is a construct of the English not a cultural artifact of the Scottish.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartan
    It always amuses me that those elites who insist we pay for their culture because its defined by them as important are those most able to afford the luxury of paying for it them self’s.
    A rock concert venue for the masses must be paid for by commercial reality but a venue for the cultural elites opera ballet or symphonies must be paid for by a tax on the masses.

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  18. All_on_Red (1,582 comments) says:

    I’d prefer Barfoot and Thompson to pay our interest for a day. We could call it B and T interest free Tuesday and make it a half day holiday .

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  19. All_on_Red (1,582 comments) says:

    Ok then Auckland City Council is in a SPENDING crisis. Is that better?

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  20. ShawnLH (5,025 comments) says:

    Modern, publicly funded “art” is the best argument I have seen for the right to bear arms.

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  21. trout (939 comments) says:

    @Fentex don’t get fooled by the accounting sleight of hand. The ‘operating surplus’ does not include interest payments on debt (running at $50 mill.+ a year), and the ‘assets’ (pipes, and roads etc.) cannot, in general, be cashed up. The security for debt is the the ability to tax ratepayers. Len’s profligacy requires further borrowing into the future because the ‘surplus’ does not cover required investment in capital works. And although the Council is legally required to dun the ratepayers for payments to cover depreciation on assets (to create a sinking fund for maintenance and replacement) you will find that the Council has also ‘borrowed’ (called ‘internal borrowing and generally not accounted for in the reports) this money and spent it.

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  22. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Good one Nos….
    It is amusing that b’itters like Brown are attracted to their like….

    And peterwn…
    I had forgotten about the Hepworth vision of a woman. (no?)

    Say….. Akld folks….
    talking about matters arty… We are looking forward to Queen at the Vector on Sept 3. Nothing like Wembley Stadium, and no Freddie ….but should be worth the many $s.

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  23. anticorruptionnz (215 comments) says:

    Have you been to Barry Curtis park lately ?? wonderful concrete structures great art work paths that are under water and muddy and paths that go no where . some one is selling Auckland the titivating bits before we have the essentials in place

    I have worked out what has happened investors fund len brown into office through the New Auckland council trust ( which the police are still investigating – its been 6 months )
    Len brown spends heaps on concrete sculptures etc which ensure business growth for those who supported him through the anonymous trust

    many of these are tied up with the share market because the companies do well share values rise – investors get rich.

    that is why we are dealing with the fancy bits and that is why we are cramming people into Auckland.. if we have rapid expansion we need infrastructure and ? pretty things ???

    you only need to look at who has financial benefit from titivating the down town area and the penny will drop .. our money their profits .. fortunately New Zealand is not corrupt ( or so they say )

    Do go to Barry Curtis park its nice but useless its a dumping ground for $$$$$$$$$$$$

    Grace Haden Independent for Epsom

    the only r

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  24. Tarquin North (297 comments) says:

    Spare a thought for me Griff, I belong to one of those business groups that is damn near suicidal over the Hundertwasser decision. You want to see some of the emails I get telling me how I should think and how the council and the peasant ratepayers are robbing us of an opportunity because they are to stupid to see the future. thank god these clowns aren’t in charge and democracy still works up here. Even worse, I lived in Waipu for years! It used to be a nice town full of working people but is now full of semi retired Aucklanders who only want to sell coffee and paintings to each other. then they all join the Caledonian Society and try to reinvent the past at the ratepayers expense. the only truly Scottish thing out there is the short arms and deep pockets. Luckily Ruakaka is just down the road and is a far more forward thinking and self reliant place that wants to go ahead.

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  25. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    Maybe Auckland can get a sculpture of Len Brown wearing concrete boots.

    Nah – on second thought, the real thing would be better…….

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  26. Longknives (4,742 comments) says:

    Flipper- Really?
    I’m a Queen fan- but seeing them with Adam Lambert?
    It’s roughly the equivalent of Paul McCartney and Ringo reforming the Beatles with Justin Beiber and that kid from One Direction..
    I’ll stay at home with my Live Aid ’85 DVD thanks.

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  27. Maggy Wassilieff (393 comments) says:

    How long before some “artist” imposes large blow-up animals on our landscapes?
    http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/giant-yellow-toad-disappears-online-after-resemblance-to-chinese-leader-noted/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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  28. pejhay (29 comments) says:

    What I want to know is, how many families will be able to live in the sculpture ? Will it be insulated ?

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  29. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    Only 500k being kicked in by the council?

    Everytime the media reports shit like this, they should include a picture showing how many houses rates went towards it.

    500k = 300 houses? So show a couple of streets. Thats what you paid for guys.

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  30. chris (647 comments) says:

    When a Council has its books in order, and rates are not rising faster than inflation

    Rates not rising faster than inflation assumes that the current rates level is correct. But it’s not. We’re are being way over taxed in local council rates in Auckland, and some of us are paying 10% more every year.

    On my rates bill, the increase is supposed to be more than 10% each year, but they’ve limited each annual rise to 10%. So they put something on the bill to say we don’t have to pay that extra hundred dollars or so, like they’re throwing us a bone instead of kicking us in the teeth slightly less.

    The answer is not more rates; it’s less cost (sack most of those planners, policy analysts and spin doctors), committing to core services only, and paying off the debt. Do that, and rates can probably decrease,

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  31. Fentex (974 comments) says:

    Don’t get fooled by the accounting sleight of hand. The ‘operating surplus’ does not include interest payments on debt

    I don’t mean to say I think Auckland has it’s finances in the order they should. I think local authorities find it too easy to invite debt and raise rates for unsuitable purposes when they ought concentrate on their essential obligations and no more.

    However, that Auckland is confronted with limits to it’s spending ambitions is not a crisis. If the city budgets appropriately it has no unmanageable problem.

    Auckland has a choice, not a crisis.

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  32. Fletch (6,386 comments) says:

    Of all the plans for Queens Wharf, none has invited as much debate as the planned $1.5 million sculpture of a state house featuring a 4.5 tonne Venetian glass chandelier.

    Wait, what? I just can’t believe this. Am I reading a quote from the Herald site, or a story from The Civilian?
    Who in their right mind wants a sculpture of a state house of all things?!!!! State houses are an eyesore at the best of times, never mind a sculpture of one.

    I’m sorry, but that’s not art. What it is is liberal progressive bullshit.
    Why not a sculpture of something beautiful? If someone can admire a sculpture of a statehouse and see it as art then there is something seriously wrong with them.

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  33. RRM (9,919 comments) says:

    One and a half million dollars for a sculpture of a state house?

    FFS you could build a few REAL state houses for that!

    Mad Emperors, playing the fiddle while Rome burns…

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  34. RRM (9,919 comments) says:

    Fletch – can you explain the recent snob craze for buying old state houses, building decks all around them, putting in a modern open plan kitchen, dining and living room area, and sanding back all the native timber joinery and shining it with that Cooper’s wood stuff?

    IMHO a lot of the old classic state houses are well-built and quite attractive for what they are; marred only by years of deferred maintenance, decades of abuse, and of course by association!

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  35. Nukuleka (325 comments) says:

    I am assuming that the concept of a state house sculpture is an overtly political one, selected as a tribute to the Labour Party, Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser and so on. Does anyone have the inside story on the background to this rather odd choice of subject? To a Mainlander this seems all very strange, even for modern art.

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