Saboteurs tackle sponsor's haka man

By Derek Cheng, Angela Gregory

A large statue of a crouching figure, part of a campaign to promote the All Blacks during the Lions' tour, has been toppled on Watchman Island in the upper Auckland harbour by saboteurs who claimed the sculpture was culturally insensitive.

The 6m steel figure, which appears to be doing a haka, was erected by adidas as part of a "mysterious campaign" to support the All Blacks.

Adidas marketing manager Craig Waugh said the "icon" was deliberately toppled on Monday night, about a fortnight after it was put up.

"It was pretty calm last night so it certainly hasn't blown over or anything.

"It was tampered with ... people would've had to get a boat out there."

An anonymous caller had told Television New Zealand that the figure had been tampered with because it was culturally insensitive, Mr Waugh said. TVNZ then contacted adidas.

The statue had been badly damaged and while it could be resurrected, no decision had been made yet. Mr Waugh said the company was still deciding whether to take the matter to police.

The damage was annoying as the statue had cost about $15,000 to build and erect.

Many parties had been consulted beforehand, including local iwi Ngati Whatua, the Department of Conservation, Auckland City Council and the Ports of Auckland.

Adidas and the New Zealand Rugby Union are launching their Lions tour campaign at Sky City tomorrow night, when the significance of the icons put up at nine locations round the country will be revealed.

They included two 50m weedmats, one on the Canterbury plains and one in Queenstown.

Seven-metre statues were put up in Dunedin's Octagon, the Christchurch Square, Invercargill, Taupo and at Te Papa. A 12.5m image was erected on State Highway 2 on the way to Rotorua.

Mr Waugh said none of the other icons had been tampered with except the statue in Taupo, where an appendage had been added. It had since been removed.

He said adidas was being deliberately vague about the significance of the icons but confirmed they were "about the tour" and the company had been working with the Rugby Union.

Watchman Island sits just west of the southern end of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

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