Auckland Council's dedicated arts budget has spent $550,000 on a new public artwork - a 5.6m tall sculpture of a young boy "walking confidently towards a future of optimism and discovery".
The artwork titled Boy Walking - which is set to be erected in Potters Park - has been purchased by the Auckland Council's regional public art capital programme, with the cost almost a quarter of its annual budget of around $2.2 million.
Officials say expenses are spread across a few years and the sheer size of the cast aluminium sculpture could actually help it save money on public art.
It was created by New Zealand-born and internationally-acclaimed artist Ronnie van Hout, whose most recent work was Quasi - a giant hand, complete with a face, standing on two fingers atop Christchurch Art Gallery.
Auckland Council arts and culture manager Richard McWha says the future for public art in the region will involve developing more partnerships with organisations – from service clubs like Rotary to private philanthropic trusts – who want to work with council on new artworks.
Boy Walking could be an example of what can be achieved, he said.
"We know there is going to be no great pots of money coming in our direction so we are really keen to test partnerships at all levels but we first have to prove we can deliver fantastic work, that it's a safe investment," McWha said.
"This is an example of where we're using our own money to provide an exemplar; chances are, if we did this particular work again in a couple of years' time, we'd probably be going out to look for a partner."
It may also mean fewer public artworks so Auckland doesn't end up with a "gazillion" pieces that, because of sheer numbers, stop genuine moments of awe and delight at seeing art in public spaces.
"We need those place-making things but, every now and again, there needs to be something that stops you in your tracks and makes you go 'wow'," he said.
The council's official public art policy is designed to provide residents and visitors the chance to "experience thought-provoking, culturally vibrant, enjoyable, challenging and inspiring public art and public space that is distinctive and unique to Auckland".
But it frequently generates debate with some, notably ratepayer groups, who believe council shouldn't fund these projects when it struggles to deal with and fund infrastructure issues.
Even when council has partnered with private sponsors, it has caused controversy.
Michael Parekowhai's The Lighthouse, on Queens Wharf, was donated by real estate firm Barfoot & Thompson to acknowledge its 90 years in business and part funded by a private donor with council contributing around $450,000 toward feasibility work and a business case, resource consents, transporting the sculpture, marketing and promotion.
Last year, the $260,000 mirror sculpture Light Weight O, created by artist Catherine Griffiths was hung between two heritage buildings in O'Connell St.
McWha acknowledged creating and installing some new art pieces can involve research and development processes which add costs to projects.
He said Auckland Transport was consulted about the location of Boy Walking to ensure it would not create traffic issues, while planning has also involved considering other safety concerns and maintenance of the sculpture which has been budgeted for.
The Albert-Eden Local Board is a strong supporter of the project, with chairman Peter Haynes saying it feels privileged to have the "magnificent work" placed in the heart of the community.
"Public art enlivens our neighbourhoods, helps build a sense of identity and encourages connections in our communities. We want this work to be seen. We want people talking about it. We hope that local children will be intrigued by the work and relate to it."