Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Kauri in gallery upsets conservationists

The controversial kauri panels at Auckland Art Gallery. Photo / Supplied
The controversial kauri panels at Auckland Art Gallery. Photo / Supplied

Conservationists are outraged by Auckland Council featuring the native timber kauri in the new $121 million Auckland Art Gallery building project.

The kauri-clad ceiling canopies, louvres and pillars in the gallery extension have been much admired by Aucklanders since it opened last month.

However, the garnering of a massive 250cu m of kauri boards in order to get the floating canopy effect has shocked those restoring native forests.

That volume is as much as the country uses in a decade.

Stephen King, of the Waipoua Forest Trust, said kauri forests were so rare that the gallery should instead have used macrocarpa.

"It would have made a statement: This is a sustainable crop. We have moved away from raiding nature to get what we want.

"I think there is something a bit sad about having to prop up the art by pulling apart the greatest art we have in the country - which is the forests and the iconic kauri tree."

Forest & Bird Society conservation manager Mark Bellingham said most people looking up at the ceiling would not know the difference if plantation-grown macrocarpa was used.

Northland Bushland Trust chairman Kevin Matthews said: "It's a shocker when we have so little kauri left.

"A prominent public building like this should be advertising clear grain radiata pine, a renewable resource."

Art Gallery director Chris Saines said yesterday that the kauri used in the canopies, columns and over the Level 2 gallery cost about $700,000 and Auckland Council had paid for the 150cu m of timber that was eventually selected for use.

"Kauri was chosen as the feature timber because of its aesthetic and functional appeal, and because it strongly reflects New Zealand's cultural and built heritage, in particular its significance to Maori.

"Importantly, no live trees were felled to source the timber used in the project."

Qualms over the splurge on kauri emerged at a packed-out public lecture on the sourcing of the timber and the craftsmanship for the giant ceiling "pods".

Questions on use of kauri were put by the audience to Jim Irvine, project manager for Papakura Joinery, which made the giant kauri components.

He said the architect's instructions were that only No 1 clear kauri was to be used.

Andrew Davy, of Kauri Warehouse, and Arthur Bergman, of Northland Kauri Timber, said they obtained the timber from privately owned bush where logs had been blown over in storms and preserved by the wet ground.

Mr Bergman said: "All logging was approved by Forestry."


* 22 hand-crafted kauri-clad pods, 23 columns

* 150 cubic metres of recycled kauri timber

* 400-600 year-old logs

* $700,000 worth of kauri

* $121 million renovation, strengthening and extension project

- NZ Herald

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