Bid to move Pioneer Statue

By Janna Sherman

A fresh proposal to restore and shift the desecrated Pioneer Statue to a safer location has been put before the Westland District Council.
Organisers of the Hokitika 150th celebrations are seeking to move the 99-year-old monument and plinth — which has long been a target for vandals — from its Fitzherbert Street site to outside the Carnegie Gallery by July.
Hokitika Gold Rush 150th committee chairwoman Sonja Barker said the relocation would be timed to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of its unveiling, on July 8, 1914.
“In the intervening years this original location has not been the most ideal as intentional damage has plagued the statue and the site has become scruffy and less of a key position since the removal of the railway station,” she said.
“The preferred site is the grassy area beside the Hokitika Museum where the statue will be spot-lit at night and considerably safer from vandalism.”
The committee then hopes to have the statue, erected in memory of West Coast pioneers, restored in time for the 150th centennial event, in December.
The cost of fixing the ailing marble sculpture — which is missing one arm — has been put at about $12,300.
A report carried out by conservationist Emily Fryer in 2012 said the life size statue was also missing a pick, had green pen marks in the eyes and a chipped nose.
Both the sculpture and granite plinth were also very dirty, with parts covered in algae and rust, the report says.
Different community groups have unsuccessfully attempted to shift the statue in recent years.
It is hoped the new proposal — which will incur no extra cost for council — will be put out for public consultation and has already been supported by Heritage Hokitika and the Hokitika Museum.
Museum director Julia Bradshaw said it was important the pointing arm and the inscriptions continued to face the same direction as originally intended.
It is understood the north positioning reflects the direction of the first discovery of payable gold, the Greenstone diggings near Kumara.