After five weeks being hidden behind scaffolding and scrim, the rail bridge at Hāwera's southern entranceway was officially opened today to reveal a fresh, new look.
No longer covered in tagging, the unsightly bridge now proudly displays an attractive mural by Whanganui artist Dan Mills, whose work also adorns the Hāwera RSA Club.
South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon says the rail bridge, has been an ugly, graffitied structure in much need of a facelift for many years. "It's essentially the southern entranceway into Hāwera. Rather than a tagged, grey, dirty front door, we now have a gateway to our town which is a part of our public history, fresh, vibrant and welcoming," he says.
Mayor Nixon says Council staff worked on ideas for a mural across the façade and after lengthy consultation with NZ Kiwirail, iwi, NZTA and potential funders it all came together. The advice and guidance for much of the Māori designs were provided by the local Ngāti Hāmua & Ngāti Hāpōtiki hapū representatives, Rukutai Watene, Turangapito Parata and Chris Parata.
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"Dan's proven experience working on rail bridges and his solid reputation with NZ Kiwirail was a factor in getting the project over the line. Comfortable working on large structures as well as canvas and with sculpture, his work is seen around the world from Paris to Canberra, Slovakia and New Zealand," says Mayor Nixon.
Councillor and former Hawera Community Board chair, Celine Filbee, says the artist has created a design which is meaningful, vibrant and attractive.
"Kawakawa, surf, cabbage trees and whaharoa, all part of the South Taranaki landscape are elegantly combined to beautify the structure. Under the bridge a large motif of the 28th Māori Battalion stands out – acknowledging the men who served during World War II, particularly the South Taranaki Māori in D Company. I think that's fitting because other than a few names on a Pātea Memorial, there has been little mention of these brave men in our district."
The mural project was funded by the South Taranaki District Council, Te Hāwera Community Board, Bizlink Hāwera (Business Association) and KiwiRail.