Today in the Wai News we read about a development with the aptly named “Ascension” sculpture:

I started this blog at the end of 2015, and this very topic was one of the first political-if you could call it that- subjects I touched.

I said back then I liked the thing. It will look good. But I also said it will blow out in cost:

I bet you this sculpture will blow out in cost too. Just you wait. Im picking by at least 30%.

Well what do you know. A lucky guess…

…Not really, just look at every project the council has a hand in.

History always repeats, always.



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Unfortunately, politicians and elected trustees- particularly in the un-scrutinised world of NZ local body- simply lack the mental faculty to apply sound project management practise with publicly funded projects.

They are overwhelmed and utterly discombobulated  by seemingly limitless grant requests from people with fantastic ideas who instead of fundraising themselves expect the public to foot the bill. Councillors and Trustees, in their eternal desire to be seen doing good, oblige them. The projects and their organisers- with no incentive to stick to a budget and every incentive not to- proceed with the blasé abandon of a teenage girl with daddy’s MasterCard on Black Friday. Progress reports to sponsers and supervision with public funds are simply out of the question. And so it goes.

So, who is paying?

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Translation: We are. The Trusts exist to help the community. What is spent on A, gets taken away from B.

Mark Rogers nails it:

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If I was in the funders shoe’s i’d just pull a Fonterra and use bully boy tactics to get the sculpture project done on the budget that was originally agreed to. Who cares what the incidental extra costs were- that’s the organisers and/or suppliers own fault during the quoting stage. Besides, Aratoi and its friends [who initiated this project] if their support base is to be believed [at 800]  would only cost each member $37 dollars each..

..Wishful thinking.

But wait, there is more.

Artist Neil Dawson was just last month featuring in the Dom Post  regarding his globes at Wellington Library. Get a load of this:

The aluminium Ferns globe-shaped sculpture was taken down in June 2015 due to safety concerns caused by structural weaknesses that had been exacerbated by the Wellington wind.

Which was more clearly explained in another article:

After weighing up the mounting cost of keeping Ferns above ground – where it had been since 1998 – the Wellington Sculpture Trust announced on Monday it needed to raise a total of $210,000 for sculptor Neil Dawson to create an upgraded stainless steel model.

The aluminium Ferns sculpture was permanently removed about 16 months ago after Wellington City Council learned it was no longer safe to keep it suspended due to metal fatigue from wind damage.

After weighing up the mounting cost of keeping Ferns above ground – where it had been since 1998 – the Wellington Sculpture Trust announced on Monday it needed to raise a total of $210,000 for sculptor Neil Dawson to create an upgraded stainless steel model.


Have a quick guess as to what you think Masterton’s “Ascension” sculpture is crafted from….

If you guessed aluminium, you would be correct.

Which begs the question: Does Masterton also suffer from occasional brisk winds?

Is Dawson being a responsible supplier selling us an aluminium art work, when it appears stainless steel is more appropriate for his delicate works of this type?

I guess it is not a bad strategy if you make a living selling sculptures.

And finally:

…the thin cables used to delicately suspend it would increase from 3mm thick to 4mm.

Little movements in the cables contributed to metal fatigue over time so thicker ones as part of an upgraded suspension system should keep fatigue to a minimum in future – and stop it wobbling ads much.

“I’ve been fighting to keep them thin because the magic is the way it floats in the sky. It will retain its delicacy.”

I wonder if ours will look like it is floating, or will those half dozen power pole bollards and cables kind of mess up that Dawson look from Wellington that we are aiming to emulate.

The location and subsequent erection requirements of this sculpture are even more befuddling given that council is about to spend millions on rejuvenating the CBD- where there is to be a focus on central public artworks. This sculpture would look somewhat better hanging in between two buildings on Queen Street with much smaller gauge wires than it will do after some genius decided “ahh, yes, the most expensive outdoor art installation we’ve ever done, let’s put in on a roundabout and surround it with large support poles!”

The funny thing will be seeing who steps up at the opening ceremony as the ‘person in charge’… because i’d wager that they have these very questions going through their heads right now.

Another hot potato indeed.

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