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Development partnership leads to cultural landmark for Wellington

05/04/2013 - General News

A partnership between Z Energy and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust has led to the unveiling of a significant new public art work which reflects some of the cultural and historical significance that lies beneath Wellington city.

In September last year, Z Energy began construction of its newest retail service station in Wellington. During early stages of excavation a Victorian brick culvert dating from around 1870 was uncovered. The culvert channels the Waimapihi Stream which emerges from the top of Holloway Road and, following the development of Wellington city, now runs underground before entering Wellington Harbour.

The Waimapihi stream is culturally important because it contains a midden that has produced shells that date back approximately 600 years.  The midden and its contents give arise to continued habitation by Māori over this period.  The stream itself is named after a female Maori ancestor, Mapihi, who once bathed in the stream.

Faced with an unexpected and culturally significant discovery under its Vivian Street site, Z started discussions with the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust as to how the development could also recognise and commemorate the significance of the stream and the area.

Through collaboration between each organisation it was decided and agreed that a sculpture made from the bricks from the Victorian culvert would be built and located on the site to commemorate the stream.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust spokesperson, Liz Mellish, said that the Trust was delighted with the outcome.

“The unveiling of a sculpture will allow us to commemorate a really significant place for Wellingtonians and recapture the magic of the Waimapihi stream,” Liz said.

The sculpture was designed and constructed by well-known Wellington sculptor Ra Vincent. Ra was recently nominated for an Academy Award for his work on set design for the Hobbit and helped design and construct the nine metre high Gandalf sculpture that appeared on the Embassy theatre to mark the film’s premiere.

The sculpture is two metres high, involves more than 500 old bricks and will be accompanied by display boards at the site which tell the story of the cultural significance and history of the Waimapihi stream.

The sculpture will be unveiled on the site in a dawn ceremony in early April just before the site is opened for business and from there will be visible for visitors and tourists.

Z Chief Executive Mike Bennetts said the journey had been a new experience for the company.

“As a local company we’re really pleased to have been a part of this and to have helped make this impressive work happen. We’ve learned a huge amount through this process and, perhaps more importantly, have started to build a new relationship which is really important to us.”