Fortunately for us, our public art collection has scheduled maintenance to ensure these most valued items are looked after and preserved for following generations.

At times this may just involve a fresh coat of paint as was the case recently with our 'Bronzed Warrior' on Fenton St.

However, in many cases any repair work requires specialist knowledge and credentials, so over the past few years I've spent an amount of time chatting and working with conservators.

Wooden sculptures present the most challenges, especially where water enters the end grain and rot can set in.

And of course, there is a time when a piece deteriorates beyond repair, and decommissioning is the only option.


Sadly, despite the best of intentions and efforts, this was the case with our Canadian totem pole which had proudly stood in the Government Gardens for more than 20 years.

On a chirpier note, our priceless Tene Waitere carvings which adorn the Government Gardens entrance were again restored last year and remain in sound condition - not bad for 110 years!

Obviously, these are extremely significant and valuable taonga, so it is fairly crucial to get the right people on the job.

As luck would have it, a direct descendant of Tene Waitere, master carver Rob Schuster was available for this restoration.

Rob's talent and lineage made for an absolutely perfect fit.

I had been aware for some time also that the 'Walk in the Redwoods' figures carved by the late Martin Tissink were due for a revamp.

Water had penetrated the end grain of the timber in places, so we needed to move quickly to prevent inevitable loss of limb.

During the assessment process, I had a number of local artisans and sculptors take a look at the damage, though no one seemed too keen to tackle the project.

Given these are much-loved, significant pieces created by a celebrated local artist now passed, I expect this only inflated the magnitude and sensitivity of the task at hand.

The solution presented itself soon enough when it came to light that Martin's son Roland, a local builder, would often help Dad out on his public art projects.

Roland was delighted for the opportunity to carry out the repairs, and may even have timber from the original redwood tree of which his Dad carved the famed wooden figures more than 25 years ago.

I really can not imagine a better connection or more appropriate fit for this restoration project.

And this got me thinking about our daughters who, when they were still at home, would often help out on public art projects.

Maybe at some point in the future then, either Nicola or Larissa might be on a restoration team for the Tarawera watertank mural, Recycle Centre mural, or the stadium terraces artwork?

From an artist's perspective, this really is a heartening thought.

Looks like some things are just meant to be then, so I am certain when Roland sets to work repairing his father's sculptures over the next few weeks, Martin Tissink will be smiling down on what is certain to be a very special and most welcomed restoration venture.

Marc Spijkerbosch is the public arts advisor for the Rotorua Lakes Council.