Thieves steal Waimate statue
Waimate's bushman sculpture, commemorating the town's pioneering past, was stolen from its spot on the corner of Victoria Tce and Queen St late Saturday night.
Police suspect that a group of people worked to wriggle the statue loose from its base at about 10.30pm, Constable Rebecca Aitchison said.
She said police have strong leads in the case and believe they will soon identify the thieves.
Mayor John Coles said the theft was a disgrace.
''The sculpture signified how our town developed. It's disappointing that we have ratbags that live in our community that get their kicks out of these sort of things.
''Hopefully it will be able to be reinstated and those responsible will be dealt with and make a contribution to putting it back in its rightful place.''
Waimate's history as a sawmilling town was acknowledged with the life-sized bushman sculpture in November 2006.
The sculpture, adjacent to the clock tower, near the council chambers, was the result of fundraising by Project Waimate.
Project Waimate fundraised $30,000 to pay for the development and contracted Christchurch sculptor Donald Paterson to develop the sculpture, which he worked on for nearly 12 months.
The area where it was placed underwent extensive landscaping and earthmoving during the redevelopment and an information board on the site was constructed to tell the story of Waimate's bush heritage.
The sculpture is constructed of marble-based filler, resin-coated clothing and bronze hands, head and hat. Paterson has made many public art works around New Zealand, including Timaru's Captain Cain.
The bushman theme dates back to the middle of the 19th Century when Waimate was a small village surrounded by about 1200ha of native forest.
By the 1870s hundreds of men were employed at five sawmills operating in the bush.
In 1878 nor-west winds fanned a fire which burned for eight days. Five sawmills were destroyed and 70 houses burned, but no lives were lost.
Small native areas, Point Bush and Kelceys Bush, both escaped the fire and are still popular recreational areas.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact Waimate police on (03) 689 7272.
The Timaru Herald