Quiet exit for rally great Bourne's statue

The whereabouts of the memorial statue of Kiwi rally driver Possum Bourne is unknown after it was quietly removed at Labour Weekend.

The statue stood sentinel over the rugged, steep hairpin-corner of Waiorau Snow Farm Rd where Peter "Possum" Bourne was fatally injured in 2003.

He was one of New Zealand's most celebrated and successful rally drivers. The life-sized bronze-cast statue was erected in 2004.

The statue's move was co-ordinated by Queenstowner Grant Aiken, the organiser of the Race To The Sky event, which Mr Bourne was preparing for when he was injured. The event was canned in 2007 and was unlikely to be held again.

Earlier this year, the idea was floated to move the statue to Pukekohe, south of Auckland, Bourne's birthplace and base, where it would receive much wider exposure.

The move was endorsed by the Bourne family and the Franklin Local Board, and it was decided to unveil the statue at Pukekohe's V8 Supercars event in April.

Mr Aitken is overseas and could not be contacted for comment.

However, Franklin Local Board chairman Andy Baker yesterday told The Southland Times he was only able to shed dim light on the statue's move.

"I believe it has been transported up here and is either in a foundry or in storage awaiting a visit to a foundry, where the original sculptor is going to do some work bringing it back to its original look, pending it's relocation to the site in Pukekohe," Mr Baker said.

Although the statue was removed without fanfare or announcements, there was nothing covert about the move, he said.

"There's nothing secretive about it; the move has been flagged for months and it was always going to be a process requiring time, as it needed some restorative works to give it back its lustre so it will look the part when we unveil it in April."

However, when pressed to pin-point the statue's exact location, Mr Baker was stumped.

"Neither I nor my any of my staff know.

"We're pretty much the receivers of the statue at the end of the spruce-up process, and that spruce-up process might not even begin for a while yet.

"We're all very confident that the statue will be unveiled on time and look amazing at the end of that process, and become a focal point for Possum, who was a very high achieving Kiwi and proud son of Pukekohe."

The statue's sculptor, Minhal Al Halabi, could not be contacted to comment on what remedial work would be carried out.

The statue's northern move is estimated to cost $100,000 and will be paid for by the Pukekohe Town Centre Revitalisation budget.

The statue will be unveiled at the V8 Supercars event in April, which will also be the 10th anniversary of Mr Bourne's death.

The Southland Times