There is tentative public support for a huge statue of Papatuanuku at the entrance to Auckland's harbour, though many are concerned about the potential cost.

The statue of the Maori Earth Mother has been proposed by Ngati Whatua o Orakei and is part-funded by the Auckland Council, which has put an initial $1 million into its design and development.

It would be as tall as, or taller than New York's Statue of Liberty, which is 46 metres high, and would be placed at the historic headland of Takaparawhau/Bastion Point.

Art historian Hamish Keith said a welcoming object similar to the Statue of Liberty would be a good fit for the site.


"A magnificent pou would be brilliant there. That is a work which belongs to our culture, is traditional and lovely and welcoming and all about us.

"But if it's going to be some kind of mock-monumental, no thank you very much."

Keith said he would not be in favour of a statue of a person.

"It has to be something that really braces from a distance. It has to be on a monumental scale. It can't be some giant figure of somebody.

"But in Maori art the tradition of large objects proclaiming or exclaiming or entitling space is one of the appropriate things, something they've always done."

National MP for Tamaki Simon O'Connor was not sold on the idea.

"I'm a bit surprised," he said.

"I'm not completely against the concept of a public statue that says welcome.


"But I'm a little surprised that what's being promoted is a religious figure. It seems a bit odd to me in a modern, secular New Zealand society. How does that fit with progressive New Zealand?

O'Connor also said it was not appropriate for the council to be paying for the statue at a time that it was introducing fuel taxes and other levies.

The structure of Papatuanuku, if it went ahead, would stand 30-50m tall on Takaparawhau/Bastion Point.

The iwi has conceived it as Auckland's version of the Statue of Liberty or the 30m Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro, visible in lights at night from across the city, with stunning views from downtown, the North Shore, and from ships and ferries.

Mayor Phil Goff said it "has the potential to be an iconic symbol of Auckland".

"It will reflect the unique culture and identity of our city and be enjoyed equally by Maori, the wider community and international visitors," he said.

Auckland Council has approved $1 million in its 10-year budget for the initial design and development of the proposed structure or pou - $100,000 for design in the current financial year and a further $900,000 for initial development next year.

Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust chairwoman Marama Royal said conceptual designs were under consideration.

"While there is still a consultation process to go through and a more detailed concept to be developed, Ngati Whatua Orakei supports the idea of having a culturally significant icon in Tamaki Makaurau that will be recognised across the world," she said.

Herald readers respond

Jenny Blacklock, from Motueka, said she absolutely loved the idea of the statue, and that it would be a masterpiece in one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.

"I would be very proud to see something so special put on Bastion Point."

But she opposed any funding coming from the Auckland Council, saying all costs should be covered by the iwi.

Kevin Cairns said it would be a great addition to a wonderful harbour.

"It's at a great spot in Auckland, a wonderful thing to view whether arriving in New Zealand by plane or boat.

"When flying into Sydney, I never look out for a building apart from the opera house and the bridge. That is what Sydney is known for."

Several readers said the statue should be built in a way which allowed visitors to climb to the top, similar to New York's Statue of Liberty.

"The views from up there would have tourists coming from miles around," one said.

Another reader, Tony Parker, said it would be a great sight for tourists arriving by cruise ship.

But he felt it was not a priority for ratepayers' money, and asked whether tourism operators might cover some of the cost.

Mark Lawson called it a "total waste of money".

"A complete kick in the face to motorists north of the Harbour Bridge," he said.

Steve Crow said there were "far better" ways to spend the likely millions of dollars in costs.

"As if the bloody faux state house isn't enough," he said, referring to Michael Parekowhai's The Lighthouse on the Auckland waterfront.

"Aucklanders have just been slammed with additional petrol taxes to fund vital roading infrastructure projects yet we can afford this sort of nonsense?"

Wendy Morrell's review was more scathing: "One word - horrendous."

One reader supported the idea of a statue but asked whether it could be representative of all of New Zealand.

"Why not a giant Kiwi for us?" he said.