A group of characters carved into punga trees on the Picton Foreshore are the start of an artistic makeover for the town, Lochmara Lodge Wildlife Recovery and Arts Centre co-owner Shayne Olsen says.
Mr Olsen created and donated a group of three punga people to the foreshore on October 19 with the intention of highlighting the town's unique wildlife, culture and history for tourists.
He said he carved the cheeky characters with large faces onto the fibre that grows on the outside of punga trees using a tomahawk, chisel and horseshoe rasps and could do two per day if he "put his mind to it".
The carvings, which feature paua shell eyes, do not hurt the trees because "the life" of them is on the inside, unlike regular trees which rely on their bark and sap.
Punga people were an ongoing feature at Lochmara Lodge and this was a chance to share some art with Picton residents and visitors to make the town more visually appealing.
"There's been a lot of talk about Picton - the direction it's going - and what our points of difference are.
"We want to highlight the wildlife, history and culture of the town in a way that's easily accessible to tourists and these punga people are just the beginning."
Marlborough District Council was supportive of the town embracing its heritage by displaying art, such as these sculptures or murals, around the town, he said.
"With threats like the ferries moving and the economic downturn, we really need to dig in together and become more of a tourist destination.
"This is part of creating a theme and a direction that's all part of the big picture - it's the first of many projects."
The punga people were based on a series of children's books written by Barry Crump and illustrated by Murray Ball featuring the "mythical and mischievous" characters.
"They live in the bush and cause havoc for people."
Mr Olsen met the Kiwi author while he was living in Havelock about 20 years ago.
"We discussed him promoting the punga people and Lochmara so both would benefit but he passed on not long after.
"It was an interesting but short relationship while he was here."
- The Marlborough Express