A $570,000 sculpture for a prominent approach road to Rotorua has been delayed by almost a year, after it was discovered only a limited number of companies in the world were capable of constructing the complex design.

The 10m high sculpture at the intersection of State Highway 5 and SH30, designed by an artist from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute/Te Puia, was inspired by the story of Te Arawa chief Ngatoroirangi, who was responsible for the safe passage of people to New Zealand.

It was originally scheduled to be installed at the Hemo Gorge roundabout by July this year. It is now not expected to be ready until June next year.

The Rotorua Daily Post put written questions to the Rotorua Lakes Council last Wednesday about two lines in a council operational report that stated: "The construction of the sculpture is proving to be quite complex and challenging and alternative construction methods are being explored."

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The council responded with a press release last night, which confirmed the construction had been delayed "due to the complex construction required and other work commitments of the specialist company subcontracted to bring the design to life".

"We have a preferred contractor to construct the sculpture and they have subcontracted a Canadian firm because specialist engineering and construction methods required aren't available in New Zealand," said the council's strategy group manager, Jean-Paul Gaston.

Read more:
Contract talks under way for Hemo roundabout sculpture

"Construction planning has been delayed due to previous commitments of the overseas firm. We are disappointed by the delay but we've had to draw a line in the sand and look at what alternative options are available and we're working on that with Te Puia."

A FAQ document attached to the release elaborated.

"The [Canadian] company, which specialises in stainless pipe rolling, asked for extensions to construct the sculpture. As a result of the delays council is considering alternative options given there are limited companies in the world which can construct a 10m flame-like stainless piping piece.

"Te Puia has been asked to take another look at the sculpture design and see if it can be redefined and potentially widening the pool of companies which can build it."

Three tenders were received for the work with an unnamed Hamilton-based engineering and fabrication company selected.

The release said the estimated cost of the sculpture project was $570,000.

It said the Transport Agency had committed $200,000 in funding. The council committed $150,000 and agreed to provide a $120,000 underwrite, should one be needed.

The remainder of the funding will be sought from external funders or sponsors, with the help of Rotorua's public arts trust.

The new roundabout has also been subject to construction delays but is expected to be completed by next month.

Timeline

November 2015: Council calls for expressions of interest from artists
February 2016 - 13 expressions of interest received
Late Feb 2016 - A shortlist of five selected by an external public art selection panel and those artists are invited to develop their concepts for the sculpture
Mid-April 2016 - Te Puia selected for its concept
May 2016 - Engineers brought in to provide advice and plan for the fabrication of the 10m tall sculpture
Late 2016 - Tender process for a preferred contractor to construct the sculpture started
January 2017 - Tender process closed and contractor selected
Late August 2017 - Council considers new options to speed up construction of sculpture
- Rotorua Lakes Council
Background

The sculpture tells the Te Arawa history of tohunga (high priest) Ngatoro-i-rangi, leader of the Te Arawa canoe from Hawaiiki, who was caught in a blizzard of snow and ice on Mt Tongariro.

He called to his sisters in Hawaiiki for help. They sent the demi-god siblings Te Hoata and Te Pupu to deliver heat, creating geysers, hot pools and volcanoes along the way, until fire reached him.

"Part of the inspiration for the design was putting a camera down the world-famous Pohutu Geyser and seeing how erupted water and steam created a vortex," New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute tumu of Te Takapu o Rotowhio (National Stone and Bone Carving School) Stacy Gordine said last year.

"The design is derived from customary whakairorakau elements, yet is interpreted in a contemporary way with the use of stainless steel, rather than traditional wood, to cater for the environment and durability. Lighting will also illuminate the sculpture to create movement and vibrancy at night."

The institute was working with Victoria University digital design lecturer Derek Kawiti to conceptualise the sculpture digitally, and through 3D printers and Opus to take the model and extrapolate the structural requirements.

"The engineering behind this sculpture is similar to the famous London Olympics Orbit sculpture, but is more ground-breaking with its deep kaupapa [initiative], tikanga [culture], complexity of design and natural geometry," Mr Kawiti said last year.

The inner vortex of the sculpture is symbolic of the spiritual power and mana of Ngatoro-i-rangi and his call to his sisters reaching skyward.

The outer vortex symbolically surrounds the inner vortex, with heat and warmth brought from Hawaiiki by the demi-god siblings.

There are eight main bands in total (inner and outer), which also represent Nga Pumanawa e Waru o Te Arawa - the eight beating hearts that are the eight iwi within the Te Arawa confederation of tribes.

The roundabout will be the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50m) with the carriageway raised about 3m above the inner courtyard, where the sculpture will be positioned.