Friends of McKenzie reserve chairwoman Penny Ericson (left) and Ruth Foreman (second from right) and Sculpture on the Gulf chairwoman Caroline Forsyth discuss possible sites for the sculpture with its creator, Chris Bailey. Photo: Geoff Cumming

McKenzie Reserve’s transformation from scruffy pine forest into a native bush haven with walking tracks and an education hub has placed it firmly on the map of bush walkers and backpackers.

Now it is blazing another trail, chosen by the Sculpture on the Gulf Trust as the starting point for a new public sculpture initiative.

Waiheke sculptor Chris Bailey’s Te Rerenga Wai O Tikapa Moana, a standout at this year’s headland Sculpture on the Gulf event, has been bought and gifted to the island by the trust, with McKenzie Reserve in Enclosure Bay selected as the site.

It is the first of two works from this year’s exhibition to be purchased and gifted by the trust for permanent display on public land – part of a bid to grow Waiheke’s reputation as “The Island of Sculpture”.

Trust chairwoman Caroline Forsyth says there are over 200 sculptures on the island, mostly on private property, but many visible to the public. “Our ambition is that Waiheke should be known not just for its headland sculpture exhibition which takes place every two years but also for its public and private collection of landmark sculptures,” Caroline Forsyth says.

The idea fits with islanders’ wishes that visitor numbers shouldn’t be concentrated just around the peak summer months, she says. It should help towards goals of extending the span of the visitor season and broadening the island’s appeal.

“It gives people another reason to come here and it might appeal to a different demographic to those who come here for the beaches and vineyards.”

Waiheke Local Board agreed at its meeting last week to take responsibility for long term maintenance of the artwork and contribute $5000 towards installation costs.

Chris Bailey is delighted that the deeply symbolic work (which translates to The flowing waters of Tikapa Moana/Hauraki Gulf) is staying on the island.

“It represents those that have been on the island for a long time – the hapu that were here, all the iwi that were coming and using these waterways. Even today, this island is really a transitional place.

“These waterways were highways for trade and warring parties. That’s what I was honouring – the Tikapa Moana, and it is really important to me that it is staying where it was created.”

Friends of McKenzie Reserve chairwoman Penny Ericson says the group is hugely grateful for the selection. “For me it’s incredibly important that we have a local sculpture whose work will be installed,” says Penny, herself a prominent artist. “It’s home, it’s Waiheke, it speaks of the past, present and future.

“We’re really excited about it. We think it’s going to look fabulous and will be a real attraction for people to come here to learn and observe.”

Friends’ committee member Ruth Foreman agrees. “We have lots of exciting plans for the reserve and this is like a beginning that will encourage people to come.”

A second work from the 2017 exhibition, Semisi Poutauaine’s Manuesina (White Bird and White Angel, left), has also been bought for public display once a suitable site is found.
A third work, Phil Price’s Forbidden Tree, is currently on loan to Tantalus Estate vineyard. • Geoff Cumming

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