The Sacred Blessing Sanctuary is a treasure, says Jane Jeffries.

In the Sacred Blessing Sanctuary on Waiheke Island, among the foliage and the roses and very close to the vegetable garden is a rabbit. A Paul Dibble sculpture of a rabbit with a gun, fittingly named, Rabbit Fights Back II.

In this intensely gardened half-hectare, recently opened to the public, Dibble's works are plentiful adding another dimension of the life to this delightful garden. The tall stature of the rabbit, standing high on its back legs is clutching a 22, an interesting juxtaposition of nature, irony and a take on kiwi humour. Rabbits are fair game to be hunted, as the sign in the vegetable garden would suggest, "Run rabbit run," yet this folkloric figure is also the Easter Bunny, the symbol of one of Christendom biggest celebrations.

Until November last year, the Sacred Blessing Sanctuary was almost a secret. It is the work of more than 10 years and yet had only been shown to the public twice. In 2011 and 2015 the garden was part of the Waiheke Garden Safari, an annual event to raise funds for the Jassy Dean Trust, caring for sick children on the island. On both occasions the garden won the People's Choice Award.

The diversity of the garden ensures there is something for everyone, with gardens within the garden, including a herb and vegetable garden, rose garden, orchid garden, tropical garden, woodlands and much more. Interspersed throughout the garden as it twists and turns, creating surprise and anticipation are eight of Dibbles finest sculptures, many of which have been commissioned for the garden.


The garden is the collective work of owner Joy Deerness, and twin brothers Arthur Smith, the business development manager and Alan Smith, a co-joint gardener with Jenni Kent.

This rich and manicured garden has a unique sense of spirituality and peace and can be viewed by appointment only, for small groups. One of the two head gardeners, Alan or Jenni take the garden tours resulting in a personal and informative commentary. The cost for the group is $90 and tours take one and a half to two hours.

Other gardens and sculpture parks to visit on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island Garden Safari, 2016

The Waiheke Island Safari has been an annual event since 2001. For garden lovers it is a must-see event providing inspiration from a number of properties, rarely seen. Proceeds from the garden tour support the Jassy Dean Trust, a children's charity. This year it will take place on November 12 and 13.

Tickets for the garden tours can be purchased on i-ticket from June. Early bird tickets are $30 until mid-October, then $40. An art auction will also be held at Pie Melon Bay on November 11, with tickets also available on i-ticket.

As it is a self-drive tour, cars can be transported to the island on Sealink. Rental cars are available for hire on the island and there is a bus tour available though Sealink.
Headlands Sculpture on the Gulf, 2017

Headland Sculpture on the Gulf (hSOTG) was initiated in 2003 by the Waiheke Community Art Gallery to inspire New Zealand sculptors and to offer the Waiheke Island community and its visitors a new experiences of art outside of traditional gallery spaces.

This biannual event will return to Waiheke from February 3-26, 2017, with a gala opening held on the evening of February 2. The selection process of sculptures is underway and the artists invited to exhibit will transform a 2km coastal walkway overlooking Matiatia harbour. Dr Zara Stanhope, director of the Cultural Engagement Committee, says, "The hSOTG is New Zealand's premier contemporary outdoor sculpture exhibition."

Entry is free.
Connells Bay

Connells Bay sculpture park showcases New Zealand sculptures on Waiheke Island. Guided tours of these awe-inspiring art works are available from late October through to late April and cost $30 for an adult.

Bookings are essential.