At first glance beachgoers at Ruakaka may have thought a large lizard was on the loose when Greg Maddox turned up.
The 2 metre-long monitor lizard with a long neck, powerful tail, sharp claws and well-developed limbs looked at home in the white sandy environment. The lizards, which can reach up to 3m in length, are native to Africa, Asia and Oceania.
But take a closer look and the changing colours of the skin are actually different coloured pieces of driftwood carefully pieced together by sculptor Maddox.
A post on a Bream Bay Facebook page featuring the lizard exploring Ruakaka Beach also attracted a lot of comments, with people querying the ownership of such a lizard in New Zealand.
Maddox replied politely that the lizard was actually a sculpture he had made and while very realistic, it was not real.
"I'm aiming for a realistic look so that's good."
Maddox said he had taken his latest artwork to the beach to take some photos rather than just taking some snaps at his Waipu base.
He had been commissioned to do the monitor lizard and then someone else spotted the piece and ordered one for themselves. One lizard will find a home in a Whangarei garden while the other is destined for Taranaki in September.
Wood included in the sculpture was Puriri, Pohutukawa and Kawakawa. Because they were hard woods the sculptures withstood the elements and had longevity but most of the wood had to be hand cut.
Maddox, a sign writer by trade, has worked all over the world for 25 years and his works include 3D art installations in New York, three giant apple sculptures for the Big Apple campaign in New York City and one in the South Street Seaport.
He also worked with Grace Graupe Pillard, a famous New York Jewish holocaust artist. In New Zealand he has done work for the Auckland Zoo and Matakohe Kauri Museum.
On his return to Northland he started Tapatai Driftwood Creations and regularly holds driftwood sculpting workshops.
"I love to build things from all forms of wood – be it driftwood or slabs of kauri, both give me immense satisfaction once transformed."
His largest driftwood art sculpture so far is a T Rex measuring 2.5m high and 5m long.