1491778009226 - $320,000 price tag for Masterton sculpture too rich for some

$320,000 price tag for Masterton sculpture too rich for some

The cost of a sculpture on Masterton’s northern roundabout ballooned to $320,000 – and its hefty price tag is now dividing opinion in the community.

One of New Zealand’s pre-eminent sculptors, Neil Dawson, has created an artwork called Ascension that will be the centrepiece of Wairarapa’s busiest intersection. 

Originally estimated to be $286,000, the price has risen by $34,000 as alterations have been made for weather-proofing and safety.

Two thirds of its funding has come from community trusts, while the remainder was raised by the Aratoi Foundation, which commissioned the artwork.

Foundation chairman Bob Francis admitted the sculpture did not come cheap, but said it was going to bring value to the town.

“The approach from the north into Masterton is quite unique and special. We identified that from the start as a site that justified such a special sculpture.”

But the new price tag has been criticised with many  residents irate.

On Facebook Amanda Sim highlighted other uses for public money she believed should take a higher priority.

“When we don’t need to do breakfast in schools and all the kids have shoes on their feet, when mental health have enough funds to keep patients safe and in treatment, when senior citizens have all the support they need to stay in their own home with assistance, when the Life Flight Trust no longer needs donations … maybe then we can buy some art.”

Crystal Hill’s comments were of a similar vein.

“I think it’s beautifully crafted but seems like a ludicrous amount of money to spend on an object when the town really needs to be upgraded in other areas,” she said.

Dan Broughton of Carterton was more sympathetic with his comments on Neighbourly.co.nz.

“The Masterton design has already shown that it provokes discussion and polarises opinion, but that’s what art is for, right? These bring some real character to the towns, they inspire and lift people, brighten the high street and break up the general monotony of straight lines and square boxes with curves and a little contrast.”

The foundation hoped to begin installation of Ascension in May.

Several years ago the Aratoi Foundation pledged to help fund a prominent sculpture in each of Wairarapa’s towns. The first cab off the rank was Windgrass by Konstantin Dimopoulos in Featherston that was installed for $45,000 in 2012.

A five-metre tall $40,000 metal cabbage tree sculpture by Niko Thomsen was installed in Greytown last month, which received $5000 from the foundation.


$165,000 from Masterton Community Charitable Trust

$50,000 from Masterton Trust Lands Trust

$105,000 raised by the Aratoi Foundation from art sales, fundraisers and private donations

$8000-12,000 per year from Masterton District Council for lighting, insurance and maintenance.

Ray Southey was chairman of Masterton Licensing Charitable Trust proceeds committee that signed off the initial $150,000 grant. He was impressed with the plans when they were put before the committee almost two years ago.

“When it’s up it will be so spectacular that people will come to see the sculpture. I pushed very hard, I thought it would be great. A lot of people since have criticised it and they have criticised me, but once it’s up I think they will change their minds.”

Christine Brewster was chairwoman of the MTLT grants committee when the decision was made to support the project. The trust is bound by law to support arts, culture and education and she said that it has been setting aside money over several years to go towards a major art project and this initiative fit the bill.


A stainless steel replacement for Neil Dawson’s aluminium Ferns sculpture in Civic Square, Wellington, would cost $210,000.

A military sculpture marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Featherston Military Training Camp will cost about $650,000.

Wellington’s Zephyrometer on Evans Bay Parade cost about $150,000 when it was first installed at Evans Bay in 2003.

A John Walker bronze statue in Manurewa, Auckland, is estimated to cost about $160,000.

Konstantin Dimopoulos’ Windgrass scultpure in Featherston was $45,000 in 2012.

Niko Thomsen’s 5-metre steel cabbage tree unveiled last month in Greytown was $40,000.