In the week since the idea was revealed in the Herald on Sunday, a huge statue on the Orakei headland has stirred a chorus of opposition and not much declared support. That is exactly what its proponents would have expected. Vision is a scarce commodity and, in truth, nobody really knows whether this one will work until it is there.

Even then, it would not be universally admired at first. A massive figure of a Māori mythological woman, Papatūānuku, goddess of earth, reaching out to the sky, Ranginui, the headland at the entrance to Auckland harbour, would be something that "needs to grow on you". It might, might not. The bigger and more dramatic it is, the longer it might take to grow on many.

But chances are, it would. Those who remember the Sky Tower when it was just completed can attest to the mixed reception it received. It looked completely out of scale with its surroundings at first. But within a year or two it was iconic, a part of the landscape Aucklanders know and mostly love.

Ngati Whatua of Orakei, owners of the headland, and the artists, carvers and designers of this idea, need to press ahead regardless of the opposition they are hearing. They should take heart from the fact that some of the world's most successful structures of public art, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, were scorned in the beginning and controversial until their completion.


If the Orakei project allows itself to be influenced by the criticism at this stage, it will not be bold. It will reduce the statue to dimensions that will barely be seen from a distance rather than standing out with all the stunning beauty of the Statue of Liberty or Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. They need to be bold. If it really does not work, if after it has been in place for a decade or so and the city has not taken it to heart, Ngati Whatua would be unlikely to leave it there.

But if it works it will be magnificent. It will not only look completely at home on that headland, it will be an authentic figure of New Zealand's indigenous culture, looking like it belongs here and nowhere else in the world. It will be in a position to greet cruise ships coming down the Rangitoto channel and airliners on some flight paths. It would be not just iconic for Auckland but probably find a place on posters of New Zealand, up there with Mt Cook and Mitre Peak.

All this is far in the future. At present there seems to be only an idea, no design that can be put in front of the public and, as we report today, no consensus within Ngati Whatua at Orakei that they should proceed with it. But with $1 million contributed by the Auckland Council to the concept it would be a pity not to proceed.

Most of the criticisms are what anybody would expect — it would be a waste of money that could be spent on real Māori needs, it is a religious image but not a Christian one, it would be an imposition on a natural landscape that is already beautiful.

Those objections will continue until the day it appears, and possibly longer. But if the designers have been inspired the quibbles will soon be forgotten. Everything depends on artists being trusted to come up with something stunning. It will probably look terrible on paper but wonderful in the place where it is designed to be.

Let's find the money, commission the skills and hope for the best.