Ratepay­ers art gath­er­ing dust


New Zealand ratepay­ers own half a bil­lion dol­lars worth of art, but only a to­ken amount is on pub­lic dis­play.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment fig­ures show coun­cils and coun­cil­con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions own art­work worth at least $568,393,020, made up of at least 173,269 pieces, but only about 7 per cent is on show.

Auck­land Coun­cil has the most valu­able col­lec­tion, mak­ing up al­most half of the coun­try’s col­lec­tion at $276,981,903.

The most valu­able pieces in­clude Richard Dea­con’s No­body Here But Us sculp­ture, owned by Auck­land Coun­cil, val­ued at $2.5m, and Ralph Hotere’s Founders Theatre mu­ral, owned by Hamil­ton City Coun­cil, val­ued at $2.2m.

Whakatane District Coun­cil has a tauihu, or waka fig­ure­head, val­ued at $1.4m; Mil­len­nium Wall, owned by Gis­borne District Coun­cil, is val­ued at $729,304; and Maori Be­fore a Wa­ter­fall by Wil­liam Hodges, owned by In­ver­cargill City Coun­cil, is val­ued at $900,000.

The fig­ures were ob­tained by the Tax­pay­ers’ Union, which found many of the most ex­pen­sive items were in may­oral of­fices, or col­lect­ing dust in stor­age.

Tax­pay­ers’ Union ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jor­dan Wil­liams said much of the art­work had been do­nated or be­queathed to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties for the pub­lic to en­joy.

‘‘But that’s not hap­pen­ing. In ad­di­tion, many larger coun­cils des­ig­nate an amount to be spent each year on new art­work, de­spite only a tiny frac­tion of their ex­ist­ing col­lec­tions be­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.’’

Af­ter the in­for­ma­tion was re­quested, Welling­ton City Coun­cil moved its most ex­pen­sive piece, Por­trait of Te Puni – with an in­sur­ance value of $650,000 – to its pub­lic foyer for all to see.

Wil­liams hoped the re­search would com­pel other coun­cils to fol­low suit.

Not all coun­cils pro­vided a list of their art, while oth­ers re­fused to pro­vide the value of the most ex­pen­sive items, on the ba­sis that it might en­cour­age theft or crime.

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