An iconic Maori sculpture proposed for the southern entrance to Rotorua is expected to cost about $570,000 - and could come at the expense of other artwork in the city.

The 10m high sculpture, inspired by the story of Te Arawa chief Ngatoroirangi who was responsible for the safe passage of people to New Zealand, looks set to grace the new Hemo Gorge roundabout at the entrance to Rotorua.

At Rotorua Lakes Council's council meeting on Thursday, councillors will be asked to prioritise the "percent for art" budget to provide an underwrite for construction of the sculpture if external funding or sponsorship to cover a current funding shortfall cannot be found.

The full council will either decide to scrap the project, prioritise funding from the percent for arts budget which would delay smaller art projects in coming years, or approve funds from elsewhere.


A report in the meeting agenda said $75,000 has already been given to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (Te Puia), which was chosen to do the sculpture.

The funding allowed the institute to finish the design and engineering specifications and to establish tender documents. The funding was provided from the "percent for art" budget, already set aside.

The southern gateway to Rotorua is being redeveloped by the New Zealand Transport Agency which has asked the council to help with parts of the project, including artwork.

The council led the process to commission the artwork set for installation in July next year.

Thirteen proposals were received from artists in what was described in the council agenda as a "competitive process" using an external selection committee.

The sculpture is estimated to cost about $570,000 with the New Zealand Transport Agency committing $200,000 and the council $150,000, half of which has been contributed in the 2015/16 financial year, with another $75,000 allocated from the $345,000 2016/17 percent for arts budget.

The estimated shortfall of $120,000 will be sought from outside funding partners. However, if external funding is not found or costs are higher than estimated, it is proposed the council provide additional funding from its percent for art budget.

If the underwrite were needed, other arts projects would need to be put on hold until more money became available in subsequent years.

The sculpture will sit on a 1.8m tall plinth scripted with the traditional narrative of the story of Ngatoroirangi, visible from the underpass being incorporated into the roundabout design. The highest point will be the top of an inner vortex representing kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and manaakitanga (hospitality).

One percent approach for public art

The council adopted a Public Art Policy in 2012 which required the inclusion of art as an integral component of the design and total budget of capital works projects. No budgeting parameters were defined at that time and in 2013 a "one percent for arts" approach was adopted as part of the Long-term Plan, providing foundational level of direct funding for art, subtracted from all capital project sums.

"The percent for arts funding approach has helped in lifting the profile of our creative community with a number of murals, sculptures and art initiatives being established," a report on the agenda for Thursday's meeting said.

"This work has improved the appearance of the city centre, a number of parks and reserves and has reduced the costs associated with vandalism and graffiti removal."

Previous projects have included the Sulphur Lake Sculpture Trail in Government Gardens, murals in inner city alleyways and suburban shopping centres, toilet enhancements at the lakefront, Blue Lake and Puketawhero Park, performing arts events and creation of a public arts brochure.