Mayor cautious on Queenstown sculpture funding

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A local arts trust may be scratching to get more council funding for its planned $150,000-$200,000 lakefront sculpture. 

The part-publicly funded Queenstown-Lakes District Cultural Trust’s secret plans were exposed by Mountain Scene last week – a resource consent reveals a huge sculpture by highly-regarded Kiwi sculptor Virginia King is to be erected on St Omer Park by Steamer Wharf. 

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Vanessa van Uden is reluctant to say whether she’d favour more council funding for the proposed work which features a main centrepiece measuring eight metres long by two metres wide and one metre high. 

Van Uden says she’ll wait and see what the cultural trust asks for – and at this stage isn’t certain it’ll ask for anything. 

“Otherwise I’ve made my mind up before I see the information.” 

The cultural trust has $91,000 in the bank, most of it council money, although council funding has been suspended for the past two years due to City Hall belt-tightening. 

Trust chairman Gary Mahan says he doesn’t want to use up the entire $91,000 on the work, dubbed ‘Wakatipu Vessel’, and he’s hoping for another $100,000 from other sources – presumably including the council. 

Since news of the sculpture plans broke last week, it’s sparked a frenzy of comment at scene.co.nz, mostly arguing against it. 

Speaking generally, Van Uden says: “Our belt will continue to be tightened – there’s no debate about that.” 

Public art is always controversial, she says: “Some will hate what’s being proposed and others will love it. That’s almost the purpose of public art, to stimulate public discussion,” she says. 

The sculpture’s May 2012 resource consent was issued by independent commissioner Jane Sinclair. 

Despite its columns soaring up to 3.4m high, and being lit by spotlights at night, the sculpture won’t breach height, site coverage or glare rules, Sinclair decided. 

“The structure will not block views of the lake or mountains and it adds interest to the public realm,” she ruled.