Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Millennium Tree ends fraught journey

A $150,000 gift to Auckland plagued by numerous setbacks has found a home in the Auckland Domain.

Unveiled yesterday by Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, the stainless steel Millennium Tree sculpture nearly died after trustees could not raise enough money for the project, which was first proposed in 1999 as a gift from Chinese New Zealanders to the city.

Then last October, when a site was approved in the Parnell Rose Gardens, residents formed a protest group to stop the work, citing a lack of consultation and the aesthetic clash with the gardens' Victorian and Edwardian atmosphere.

At its permanent home next to the Winter Gardens, the sculpture stands 6.5m high on a raised platform surrounded by large phoenix palms.

Wellington artist Guy Ngan's work was inspired by the wand of the Monkey King of Chinese legend - the fabled staff could dispel all obstacles.

"I'm sure he had something to do with it," Ngan said.

The artist, who has 35 other public artworks in Australia and New Zealand, was delighted with the work's final location.
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"It picks up all the beautiful trees. I can't think of a better place in the world.

"We started this project in the last millennium, and we have had to overcome one hurdle after another.

"It's been a very slow beginning, but we've not at any time really been disappointed. We've always had enough support to keep it alive. Finally we've got it built."

During the unveiling, Ron Sang, trustee of the Chinese New Zealanders Millennium Trust, paid tribute to the 150 sponsors who kept the project alive.

He said the Millennium Tree was not a monument to the past, but one that celebrates the contributions the Chinese have made to New Zealand since the 1860s.

Meanwhile, Auckland City is set to get another public sculpture on Thursday when the Prime Minister and Arts Minister, Helen Clark, unveils a work by Denis O'Connor, Raupo Rap, in Viaduct Harbour Ave.

- additional reporting Bernard Orsman
By Bernard Orsman and Errol Kiong | Email Bernard By Bernard Orsman and Errol Kiong
5:00 AM Wednesday Nov 2, 2005

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