Former government minister Shane Jones has hit out at the ''dorks'' who damaged a sculpture under construction at Kerikeri roundabout and the ''Facebook scribblers'' who likely incited them.
Te Haa o Te Ao (The Breath of the World) is a climate-change-themed sculpture by Chris Booth of Kerikeri and Tom Hei Hei of Te Tii, originally commissioned by local hapū Ngāti Rēhia.
When the hapū couldn't raise the money required on its own, community group Our Kerikeri stepped in and successfully applied for a grant from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
The sculpture — which will consist of 120 boulders suspended on cables from a steel pole, topped by three birds' heads — has been taking shape next to Kerikeri roundabout for the past few weeks.
The cables and Hei Hei's bird sculpture were in place with the boulders due to be delivered within days.
On Monday night, however, vandals climbed the scaffolding and removed 63 of the 120 cables, and used something — possibly the remaining cables — to damage the bird sculpture.
Just hours earlier, about 5.15pm on Monday, a Facebook post on Kerikeri Notice Board that started as a discussion about the sculpture quickly descended into vitriol and misinformation.
Timing suggests the Facebook furore and the vandalism are connected.
Jones said Kerikeri had received a lot of money from the PGF. Other projects that benefited included the Waipapa roundabout, the new Kerikeri skatepark, the upgrade of Te Ahurea (formerly Rewa's Village) and a new sports facility taking shape on Waipapa Rd.
"The Kerikeri Facebook scribblers may dislike the statue but it came as part of an infrastructure package covering sports, transport, tourism and arts investments. I only hope that the dorks who vandalised the statue don't further deface the new skateboard park," Jones fumed.
"There's an insidious level of criminality around Kerikeri and vandalism only encourages more of this law breaking. The local construction team must not be intimidated. It's time to name and shame the villains who threaten our community," he said.
Ngāti Rēhia trustee Nora Rameka said the hapū was disappointed.
"We're trying to do something for the community and we get sabotaged," she said.
On Wednesday a crane was used to remove the bird sculpture and allow retrieval of the cables which had been pushed inside the column.
Booth said it was likely the birds would have to be sandblasted and recoated because the vandalism had exposed some of the cast aluminium, leaving it vulnerable to corrosion.
He was shocked at first but by that evening just felt sorry for the person responsible.
Funding for the sculpture did not come from ratepayers or the council as some had claimed on social media.
"It is PGF funding. The community applied for it, and the community won it. It's unbelievable how many people have contributed. They haven't just seen it as a job, they've bent over backwards to make it work."
All but a few specialist tasks had been carried out by local businesses, which ensured the money stayed in the local community.
Booth said the birds atop the sculpture were a kāhu (hawk), tūī and kawau (shag).
The kāhu looked down the highway at visitors arriving in Kerikeri, the tūī looked towards Puketi Forest and the kawau towards the sea.
Tension in the cables holding the boulders would be adjusted by means of a cast bronze collar to represent local efforts to combat climate change.
The $550,000 grant for the sculpture was part of an $8 million PGF package for Kerikeri-Waipapa projects announced by Jones in mid-2020.
When originally mooted by Ngāti Rēhia in 2014 the sculpture was to have been built beside State Highway 10 at Bulls Gorge.
Other PGF projects to have been vandalised in Kerikeri include the new skate park and the waka shelter opposite the Stone Store.
Earlier this year the historic flag pole at Russell was badly damaged by vandals. Their motives remain unknown but graffiti linked to the attack referred to a conspiracy theory about a "new world order".