Auckland's controversial new $260,000 mirror sculpture has cracked open less than a week after it was officially unveiled.

Two large cracks in the mirror's brass backing are clearly evident in photos taken by a resident in the nearby Britomart quarter, who described the art work as "another enormous waste of money by council as small Airbnb operators have to shut up shop due to unfair rating system".

The mirror has been hung between two heritage buildings in O'Connell St in a way that artist Catherine Griffiths says "brings to attention the sky, framed by the built environment, and the earth beneath".

She said last week that the cost was put at $80,000 when the work was commissioned in 2012 and she did not know how the cost had escalated to $260,000. She said her own fee was "not anywhere near" even $80,000.


Auckland Council arts and culture manager Richard McWha said the cracks were "not unexpected and typical of many such art installations".

"After installation, there has been some minor separation between the brass and the substrate, most likely due to some expansion after initial exposure to the elements, resulting in what appears to be cracks," he said.

"The contractor that installed the work will be going to go back and do some tidy-ups, which will address this.

"This is a normal part of the commissioning process and will be done at no additional cost to Auckland Council."

However Jo Holmes of the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance said Mayor Phil Goff should explain how he could justify new taxes and levies when the council was spending $260,000 on a mirror.

"While Aucklanders are struggling to make ends meet and pay the council's new regional fuel tax, the council is mocking the poor with this sort of grand-scale vanity project," she said.

"This artwork has already cost ratepayers $180,000 more than the original budget and even then cracks have appeared. It appears Auckland Council can neither budget nor carry out art installations."

The council is under fire for both its new 11.5c regional petrol tax and a hotel bed tax which has been extended to 3800 homeowners who rent out properties through Airbnb. The bed tax has lifted rates for one Waiheke Island homeowner who rents out a one-room sleepout from $4191 to $13,628.

Catherine Griffiths says her artwork, Light Weight O,
Catherine Griffiths says her artwork, Light Weight O, "gently pivots, offering its natural and built surroundings back to the viewer through light and reflection". Photo / Auckland Council

Griffiths has written that the sculpture, Light Weight O, was conceived part of an ongoing series of "vowel works" in public and private spaces.

"I wanted to use the natural and available light that existed in the city, and if we went with a mirror then that takes on reflected light, sunlight, moonlight and lights in buildings," she said.

When the work was finally hung, she said, a "wonderful surprise" was that the brass back of the mirror also reflected the sunlight in "a really warm glow of light across the pavement".

The work was funded through the regional public art budget and the city centre targeted rate. The council's capital budget for public art works this year is $2.1 million.