Editorial: Not all are fans of Hairy statues

By Annemarie Quill


News that the Government is contributing $150,000 to Tauranga's Hairy Maclary waterfront sculpture has been welcomed by some people with all the geniality of Scarface Claw.

On the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page, there were 25 comments as of early last night, and none of them was positive.

The cash injection is bad timing after a Budget which warned us that the country must tighten its belt.

The class size debate - and the $114 million that the Government still wants to cut from education - are fresh in people's minds. So is the recent Unicef child poverty report highlighting the desperate plight of some of the nation's children.

Despite these times of austerity, investment in tourism is essential for the local economy.

The $150,000 is from the Ministry of Economic Development Tourism Facilities Grant Programme and forms part of the $800,000 needed to construct and maintain the sculpture of the nine storybook characters.

If the metal sculpture does bring shiploads of Hairy Maclary fans to these shores to spend their money in local motels, restaurants and businesses, then over time the investment would reap rewards.

But based on the Facebook comments and views of people I have spoken to, the tourism value of these statues could be overrated. A bucket list might include the Taj Mahal, The Grand Canyon or The Great Wall of China, but I cannot see the pooches having the same drawcard.

There is no doubt that Dame Lynley Dodd created much-loved characters. Children around the world adore the stories with their rhyme and magical illustrations.

But the wish to immortalise this in statues is an adult whim. My experience of children is that a statue is of little appeal unless they can interact with it. Children might enjoy riding on Hairy's back but why would families travel miles for this type of pleasure that kids can get at the local park?

Creative Tauranga chief executive Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell's passion about Tauranga is undoubted. Do locals share her view of the statues? Would the money be better spent on a revamped waterfront? Visit Auckland, Sydney, Rio or Barcelona and see how a well-designed waterfront transforms a city and fuels the local economy.

Until recently the cars in Tauranga had the best view. Soon this pleasure will be all Hairy's. The rest of us sip our Sav looking wistfully at the water across a road and a railway.

Mrs Rudduck-Gudsell hopes for an unveiling by Charles and Camilla. The UK Cabinet says it is one of their best invites for their upcoming New Zealand tour. This is unsurprising given that in my opinion they are as boring and undynamic as the bronze statues themselves.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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