John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Frustrations over public art policy

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Thirteen-year-old Jayden Roddick was one of the many people who stopped to make the most of four white bikes dug into the ground at different levels on The Strand.
Thirteen-year-old Jayden Roddick was one of the many people who stopped to make the most of four white bikes dug into the ground at different levels on The Strand.

Frustrations have boiled to the surface around differences of interpretation between public art and light-hearted "love notes" used to decorate Tauranga's downtown.

Mainstreet Tauranga vice-chairwoman Anne Pankhurst said a clearer mandate was needed around what was public art.

She was commenting on the disclosure of tensions between Mainstreet's love notes and the council's public art policy administered by the recently formed Public Art Advisory Panel.

"We feel at times frustrated that even simple love note campaigns are road blocked or challenged by the Public Art Advisory Panel," Mainstreet wrote in its six monthly report to the council.

Love notes were simple and often temporary installations used by Mainstreet since 2013 to help revitalise the city centre.

Decorated footpath piano on Willow St, part of 'love note' public art around the city. Photo/file
Decorated footpath piano on Willow St, part of 'love note' public art around the city. Photo/file

They included red bows declaring "Love Tauranga" being tied around trees, the decorated footpath piano and four white bikes dug into the ground at different levels on The Strand.

The report said Mainstreet was frequently challenged and felt hamstrung in its attempts to express itself in a spontaneous manner.

Mainstreet accepted that any large or significant public art works needed to be strategically thought through and debated.

But it suggested that love notes needed to be separated from the public art policy in order to allow more scope for freedom of expression.

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Ms Pankhurst proposed a discussion to clarify exactly what was expected of the public art policy and the advisory group, and where the boundaries lay.

The controversy follows the advisory panel failing to have its first recommendation adopted by the council.

It supported the failed bid by Gareth Morgan for a 10m-high kinetic sculpture to rotate above Marine Parade, outside Mr Morgan's apartments on the corner of Marine Parade and Pacific Ave.

Mainstreet's report on the issue failed to elicit any direct response from this week's meeting of the council's monitoring committee.

However, Councillor Gail McIntosh took the opportunity to ask whether the council had put any cash into the Wharf St dining precinct, with its themed wooden street furniture. She was told the project was carried out by Mainstreet in collaboration with Priority One, together with the street's retailers and other stakeholders.

The council assisted with staff time and resources but no definite answer could be provided to Cr McIntosh about whether council cash had helped fund the precinct.

Councillor Matt Cowley said there was a widespread public perception that it was a council-led initiative and that it had failed.

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"Retailers put the real skin in the game."

He said the Wharf St dining precinct would evolve, like Rotorua's Eat Streat, and it was a question of making sure everyone was behind it.

It may need co-funding, like the Rotorua District Council's 50 per cent contribution to Eat Streat.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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