Oversized nods to small towns
In the town where I live, a giant bottle - constructed of about 25,000 wine bottles - sits stoically in the main street.
At night it’s even lit up, giving an eerie green glow over the town’s playground.
We’re not a grape-growing area (yet) and the bottle is a bit stumpy.
More like a ginger beer bottle rather than a wine bottle.
The fact that it has been knocked down and rebuilt due to a construction fault says rather a lot about the town’s occupants.
That’s 50,000 bottles, and there’s only about 100 of us.
Apparently, the bottle was built ‘to bring people to town’.
That got me thinking when I was on my summer road trip at Christmas.
All over New Zealand, towns have fundraised to build large icons of their district in the hope of attracting people to their area.
There’s the Kiwi staples - L&P bottles and gumboots, as well as paua shells, a big apple, bulls and prawns.
Springfield has it’s donut, Tirau has a corrugated iron sheepdog and Ohakune a big carrot.
Tourist numbers are up in Gore, but I’m not sure that’s due to the town’s brown trout, guitar and ram statues.
(The ram statue does have some benefits to the locals though. It’s almost a rite of passage to have your photo taken in a compromising position with Rodney the Ram, considering the plinth it is on is so high that his rather spectacular testicles are at head height for the average person.)
But do these over-sized nods to what makes our towns and districts well-known actually benefit anyone?
Has anyone ever rocked up to Cromwell and thought, ‘my, that’s a mighty fine statue of summer fruit - I think I’ll stay the night’?
(I bet you no-one has ever thought that in Tuatapere, the sausage capital of Southland.)
Do they bring in hoards of cashed-up visitors by the busload, giving regional New Zealand a slice of the tourism pie?
To be fair, humans have been building large structures for centuries.
But I’d rather have my photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty than Rakaia’s huge salmon.
Still, these large edifices are great for the selfie-obsessed generation.
Who wouldn’t want to post a picture of themselves online with Geraldine’s giant jersey or Bull’s bulls?
On my road trip I encountered several of these large structures - a big clock on a hill, the big sum- mer fruit, a big ram, the big jersey, a big crayfish and a big salmon, and I didn’t stop to take a selfie with any of them.
A lost opportunity?
Perhaps we should print a New Zealand road map so tourists can plan their holiday and not miss out on some of our finest Big Things. Maybe we could build more?
The opportunities are endless. Blackball, for example? Kumara? Ross? Drybread or Moa Creek?
Just as well Te Puke built a kiwifruit first...
Who wouldn’t want to post a picture of themselves online with Bulls’ bulls?