A nearly 10m-high kinetic sculpture inspired by seaweed could soon be rotating above Marine Parade, outside apartments owned by economist and investment manager Gareth Morgan.

Tauranga City Council decides today whether to approve the installation of the wind-driven sculpture, Rimurimu, by world-renowned Christchurch artist Phil Price.

Mr Morgan has offered to fund and own the red-coloured sculpture on the corner of Marine Parade and Pacific Ave.

However, two roadside pohutukawa trees will need to be felled to allow the sculpture to move freely, with Mr Morgan offering to pay to plant replacement trees nearby.


Rimurimu has become the first big test of the council's newly formed Public Art Advisory Group which has backed the application, saying it was a great piece of art. "No aspect of the work is objectionable."

The group said the work would capture the public's imagination and help create a sense of place and identity in Tauranga.

Mr Morgan explained how he came up with the idea for the sculpture.

"I wanted something nautical that fitted in with the landscape and complemented the house."

His initial thinking was for a sculpture inside the boundary of his property, until he realised there could be a major public benefit if the sculpture was scaled up to catch the wind on the corner. He started afresh with a blank piece of paper and, after going back and forth with Mr Price, finalised the design.

The Marine Parade site proposed for the sculpture Rimurimu and the two trees nearest the corner earmarked for removal. Photo / Ruth Keber
The Marine Parade site proposed for the sculpture Rimurimu and the two trees nearest the corner earmarked for removal. Photo / Ruth Keber

The colour matched the beauty of pohutukawa in bloom which grew in abundance on the neighbouring hillside of Mt Drury. If the council opposed putting the sculpture on the corner he would spend about a quarter of the amount on a scaled down and probably different sculpture placed on his property.

The council would enter into a contract with Mr Morgan who would be responsible for the sculpture's maintenance. He sought a minimum term of 20 years for the sculpture, with safety concerns addressed by proposed changes to the layout of the road.

Mr Price said Rimurimu, with its necklace row of rounded forms, took its influence from the common brown seaweeds found around New Zealand's coastline. The sense of movement with multiple junctions was like being underwater in another world.

Long-time Mount resident Allan Goodhall said that no matter how worthy and aesthetically pleasing the sculpture may be, the removal of pohutukawa trees meant the project would require close examination by the council.

"The council has to weigh up public with private good, balancing Mr Morgan's self-interest with any altruism embedded with this thing."

Rimurimu sculpture proposal

* Twenty-one wind-powered moving parts divided into three main arms
* Top knot rotates at junction with the trunk 6.7m from the ground
* Maximum height and width 9.9m by 9m
* No lighting or noise