Calls for city council to rethink Parekowhai sculpture

Michael Parekowhai's three-storey sculpture, called Unleash the Dog, will be erected outside Waikato Museum in Hamilton.
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Michael Parekowhai's three-storey sculpture, called Unleash the Dog, will be erected outside Waikato Museum in Hamilton.

A stoush is brewing among the city's arty types over plans to erect an imposing three-storey sculpture near the southern end of Hamilton's main drag.

In 2014 the city council gave approval for Michael Parekowhai's sculpture Tongue of the Dog to be installed outside Waikato Museum.

The $700,000 artwork is an initiative of the Mesh trust which is fund-raising the project.

The sculpture references Waikato River creation myths and the cuisenaire rods used to teach Te Reo Maori.

But former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans said not everyone believed the artwork was appropriate for the city's cultural precinct and had approached elected members asking them to rethink the proposal.

Evans is a member of Hamilton group Theatre of the Impossible Trust (Toti), the driving force behind the bronze statue celebrating Gallipoli soldier and artist Horace Moore-Jones.

Evans said "dozens of people" had expressed reservations about Parekowhai's sculpture being located outside the museum.

"I have raised these concerns behind the scenes with the mayor [Julie Hardaker] and others but this is not a Toti thing, I'm simply passing on comments that have been made to us," Evans said.

Evans said there was enough disquiet about the Parekowhai artwork to warrant the council reconsidering its decision to grant approval.

"This is not about stopping the project, I think there's a range of positions in the city where the sculpture could go. It's such a huge, big thing and I think it needs to be in a green space," she said.

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"If you want my opinion I think it's quite jolly but I'm not sure something quite jolly, of that scale, should go in that site."

Mesh trust chairwoman Nancy Caiger said the trust had gone through the proper process to win council approval and work on the project was proceeding.

Caiger said there was no rivalry between Mesh and Toti but did not believe Evans should lobby councillors to change their mind.

"The site for the sculpture is the right site otherwise we wouldn't have asked the council for the site," Caiger said.

"It has nothing to do with Margaret, it's not up to her to approve it or otherwise. It's for the council to approve it and council have approved it and that's the end of the story. There's enough space in Hamilton for both us and Toti to exist in Hamilton and we do different types of work which appeal to different parts of the community."

Hamilton deputy mayor Gordon Chesterman said Mesh had followed all the right steps to get the Parekowhai work approved and wouldn't support any move by council to review the decision.

Chesterman said Toti and Mesh had fund-raised fantastic artwork for the city.

"I do see this as a bit of fisticuffs between these groups but I support Mesh on the basis that they have gone through the right process and they've been successful."

 - Stuff

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