An update on the “$1.5M state house” that nobody will live in

The controversial $1.5 million “lighthouse” sculpture on Queens Wharf is being made more in keeping with its state house roots.

After two years of artistic problems and delays, Auckland Council has finally released the first public images of the sculpture, based on a modest Mt Eden state house.

Artist Michael Parekowhai has abandoned plans for a Venetian crystal chandelier weighing 4.5 tonnes and depicting a glowing garden of native flowers, birds and insects at a cost of $705,000. It will be replaced with 10 small chandeliers in a Matariki constellation, or Pleiades star cluster, referencing the Maori New Year, most of which will be made in New Zealand.

Last night, council chief operation officer Dean Kimpton said the budget remained $1.5 million, but there was no longer any cost to ratepayers.

The project will be funded from a $1 million gift from Barfoot & Thompson, interest of about $100,000, a $100,000 donation believed to come from arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs and an anonymous donation.

Previously, the council agreed to underwrite the $500,000 shortfall after Barfoot & Thompson made a $1 million donation in March 2013 marking its 90 years in business.

It’s good to know that the Auckland Council are no longer pouring $500,000 of rate payers money into this project, but what nobody seems to realise is that there is still a huge operational cost that has already been incurred, and will continue to be incurred that the rate payer is still paying for.?

All these meetings, all the planning, all the expert reports, they aren’t coming out of the $1.5M. ?They’ll be coming out of established budgets. ?And with it, there is an opportunity cost. ?We can’t spend the same money twice, and by constantly returning to this absurd white elephant, we’re bleeding money and resources best spent elsewhere.

It’s nice to know the $705,000 chandelier is off the table. ?Sorry, ceiling.

Actually, I don’t care about it, as long as it is private money paying for it. ?But oddly enough, as soon as the council found there was too much blow-back from this decision and they backed out, the artists found a cheaper solution. ?Well, how about that? ? All we had to do is empty the rate payer through and he’s managed to be creative for less money.

But the problem of consuming council operational budgets, people and resources continues.

From here on in, when someone donates money to the public for an art installation, this money should cover to total cost of the project, not just the material and direct costs.

As a side-effect, I’d imagine it wouldn’t take years for these things to be progressed – because doing so would simply consume the budget in planning, meetings, PR, consultation, engineering reports, legal opinions, and so on.

Mr Kimpton said a number of directly affected parties, including Heritage New Zealand, Ports of Auckland, the Hilton Hotel, Waitemata Local Board, Heart of the City and Auckland Transport had been consulted, but there were no plans to give the public a say.

What? ?No Taniwha check?


– Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald