It's here. Rotorua's new southern entry now adorns the 12m-high 3D-printed sculpture - Te Ahi Tupua.
And while some ratepayers are still venting about what in their opinion is a big waste of money, others in the city are proud to see it finally arrive and say they now realise it's "awesome for our city".
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday it had been a long wait but she was pleased to see it was now in place.
"I think it will provide a great entry piece for our city and I love the story behind it – it's an important Te Arawa and Rotorua story. I have personally received a lot of positive reaction over the weekend and I'm looking forward to it becoming part of the local landscape and welcoming our manuhiri (visitors)."
She described the project as "incredibly complex" and "groundbreaking", with a lot of innovation required to overcome construction and installation challenges.
New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute tumu whakairo (head of school) Stacey Gordine, who was the original artist behind the sculpture, said they wanted to reflect the geothermal features and tribal narrative of the region.
It was a broad concept as they wanted to also reflect tourism, business and education aspects, he said.
The result was coming up with a vortex concept.
"I remember talking to one of the guides (at Te Puia) and he said at one point of time they put a camera down Pohutu (geyser) and they watched the geothermal venting and as it came up, it came up in a vortex so that for me was the initial vortex theme that I carried through."
He said it was an "unexpected but good turn of events" when Kilwell came on board to build it, using new technology of wrapping the 3D printing in carbon fibre.
"For various reasons, because it was going to be made locally in town which is awesome and another big plus was it was moving into new and innovative material spaces particularly for our toi Māori. That innovation was really quite important to the overall project ... Our Māori art can translate into these new innovative spaces."
The sculpture has become controversial as it's three years behind schedule and with a total cost of $743,029 - an estimated $204,361 over budget.
It is understood the transport agency contributed at least $200,000 towards the sculpture project.
Saturday's installation operation included Rotorua Lakes Council, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Kilwell Fibretube and Te Puia, as well as helicopters and cranes and got under way from before 6am.
Vehicles took turns at travelling through a stop-go system, resulting in long queues on State Highway 5, Old Taupo Rd and Fenton St.
The outer cone of the sculpture was brought to the Te Puia carpark, being flown over underneath a helicopter from Kilwell's site on Te Ngae Rd - creating remarkable scenes over the city.
It was then set down before being lifted on to its base by a crane. A second helicopter carried the inner cone, which was also installed by crane.
Rotorua Lakes Council's operations group manager Jocelyn Mikaere said they were pleased the installation went as smoothly as it did.
"Creating and installing this remarkable taonga is something that our teams and our partners have worked really hard on.
"There has been a lot of anticipation to see Te Ahi Tupua welcoming locals and visitors as they travel into Rotorua. The concept behind the design speaks to a significant Te Arawa narrative and represents the arrival of geothermal energy to our district. The innovation in the way it was constructed also provides a perfect example of the talented people we have in Rotorua."
Kilwell Fibretube chief executive Craig Wilson said it was "extremely satisfying to see Te Ahi Tupua in place".
"Kilwell has been a locally owned company in Rotorua for more than 85 years. Many of our products go offshore so for us, bringing to life the remarkable piece of art created by Stacy Gordine and the team at NZMACI and showcasing the innovation of our business was really important."
He said the majority of it was handmade by Kilwell's employees.
"We have a talented team and for most of the project, they were coming up with solutions to things that had never been done before. We are incredibly proud that we had a crew that persevered through the challenges to bring to life something pretty spectacular that can be enjoyed by the whole community."
Among the bystanders at the installation on Saturday was Rotorua woman Freya Shuttleworth.
She said the photos they had seen previously in the newspaper didn't do it justice.
"It looks amazing. It's pretty awesome for our city."
Otonga couple Julia and Philip Steele walked down to watch having heard the helicopters.
". . . Obviously driving into Rotorua is beautiful anyway but this will make it even more so," Julia Steele said.
"I really hope people really like it."
By about 10am, the second piece of the sculpture was lifted into place and was met by applause from some bystanders.
Andy McKeown watched with a sense of pride in the creation.
As part of Haua Engineering, he had been involved in the hydraulic testing of the structure.
"There was a lot of tonnage designed to pull those things apart to make sure they could handle the elements," he said.
"I think it looks very cool. I'm very impressed."
McKeown's wife Raewyn said she thought the sculpture was incredible.
"I think it's fabulous to have something so beautiful, when people come into town, so iconic and so Rotorua. I sort of liken it to the Eiffel Tower in Paris - there was a big to-do about that before it was set up and with this, there's been a big to-do. But it's terrific."
Controversy has long mired the arrival of the sculpture.
Beck Helicopters, which had originally been lined up to help transport the sculpture, pulled out because the artwork would be too heavy.
Springfield resident Viv Radley said the sculpture was beautiful but she would have preferred that the money and effort that went into it went to the Rotorua Museum or performing arts centre instead.
"They should have come first. This has taken over from the museum and performing arts centre."
Radley said investing in the museum and performing arts centre would have helped draw more people to those sites and help add some coin to the council coffers.
"I'd like it done before we start getting all the visitors back."
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers' Association's spokesman and district councillor Reynold Macpherson said the value of a piece of art was "in the eye of the beholder".
"There will be those who see this as a heartwarming example of a cultural overlay, and others, like ratepayers, who see it as a symbolic bonfire of their dollars."
Macpherson, who is also a councillor, said the money already spent on the project had been "spent in an irresponsible way".
- Additional reporting by Kiri Gillespie