More than $150,000 of artwork overlooks offenders and court staff in Ministry of Justice sites around the Bay of Plenty region.

Ministry figures provided to the Bay of Plenty Times revealed artworks at the ministry's Bay of Plenty sites were valued at $150,873.86.

The works included paintings, prints, artefacts and carvings.

The most valuable was a mural by James Turkington valued at $70,000.


Turkington was the most prominent mid-20th-century muralist in New Zealand, according to Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Very few of his works survived into the 21st century.

Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga registrar Jo Torr said art in public spaces exposed people to their own culture and to the cultures of others.

"Studies show that as a result of exposure to art, people demonstrate stronger critical thinking skills, display higher levels of social tolerance, exhibit greater historical empathy.

"Experiencing art has well documented positive effects for mental health and general well-being," she said.

In some cultures, artworks were believed to have spiritual value. Maori taonga were considered to have mauri, or life force.

Ms Torr said artworks in public spaces should be chosen by examining audience demographic, demand and appreciation. Local, national and international cultural values and diversity should also be considered.

Ministry of Justice deputy secretary corporate Suzanne Stew said the items on the ministry's central asset register had been acquired over the course of its 140 year history.

The locations of the works included courts, tribunals, and ministry sites used for delivering other services, including legal aid and the Public Defence Service.

Works on the nationwide register included pieces by well-known artists such as Dick Frizzell and Grahame Sydney.

Many of the works depicted New Zealand places such as Karekare and Matapouri beaches or plants and animals including pohutukawa, morepork and saddleback.

Others had more judicial themes including framed photos of judges in Southland worth $1194.50 and an art work in Dunedin called Allegations, worth $2560.

The most valuable works nationwide include the Turkington mural as well as sculptures in Auckland and Hawke's Bay worth up to $50,000.