Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Auckland Council approves art, then removes it anyway

Auckland Council has pulled down a public art installation depicting homelessness because they thought the piece - that received council funding and consent - was a pile of trash.

Despite a sign explaining the purpose of the Artweek structure on Vulcan Lane and details of its permit, it was removed overnight Sunday by rubbish contractors.

The piece, named The Robust Welcome Place, was by Xin Cheng and Chris Berthelsen and was an alternative take on Auckland's goal to be considered one of the world's most liveable cities.

The artists used recycled materials to create a temporary structure where people could relax, socialise and seek shelter.

The collaborators received a $5000 grant for the work after applying to the council as part of Auckland Council and Heart of the City's Changing Lanes project.

Auckland Council Community and Events Art general manager Graham Bodman said he apologised, and confirmed the art had a permit.

"We apologise to the artists, Chris and Xin, for mistakenly disposing of their public installation.

"This was done by rubbish contractors in response to a complaint from the police."

It is understood that a homeless person was discovered sleeping in it at the time.

A police spokeswoman said the agency was investigating, as it had no record of the call and officers had no recollection of taking such action.

The artists were surprised by the action taken by council, especially as they were fulfilling all the goals of the organisation.

"We are doing all the things that the council wants in communities - creativity, waste minimisation, sustainability, a liveable city and art for the city," said Cheng.

Artweek spokeswoman Deborah White said the incident was ironic as yesterday was World Homeless Day.

Bodman said: "The council encourages using creativity to redefine public space and spark conversation and debate - something this piece of work certainly does and will continue to do."

The artists were not deterred by the incident, and since Monday had been busy recreating the project with new materials.

They chose placards left over from the local government elections at the weekend, with the faces of new and hopeful councillors now looking down on those inside the structure.

- NZ Herald

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