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Future uncertain for small town’s iconic surfer statue

The Southland App

Local Democracy Reporter

21 March 2024, 8:08 PM

Future uncertain for small town’s iconic surfer statueColac Bay/Ōraka has been home to a giant surfer statue since 1999. In recent years, it has begun to decay. Photo: Matthew Rosenberg/LDR

A prominent statue that has graced the entrance of a Southland town for 25 years could be riding its final wave.


Wear and tear from the elements and damage from people climbing on it has put the future of Colac Bay/Ōraka’s giant surfer in doubt.


Built in 1999, the statue is a nod to the popularity of the sport in the small township, which is about 50km from Invercargill.



But quotes for both its repair and replacement have proven costly, coming in at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively.


Ōraka Aparima Community Board chair Michael Weusten said the final decision would come down to getting “bang for the buck”.


While the statue itself wasn’t in bad condition, the surfboard part was disintegrating, he said.



“It’s a state it can’t be left in, because it will degrade.


“It’s almost like an exponential thing. The rate of decay will get more and more rapid over the years.


“Initially it doesn’t look much, then five years later it’s completely gone.”



Last year, the community board created a project to refurbish the statue with a budget of $35,000 to be paid for through a loan.


With a large gap between recent quotes and how much could be committed, Weusten hoped locals with a background in fibreglass might be able to step in and bridge the gap.


Southland District Council have also said the project would only go ahead if an assessment deemed it to be structurally sound.



The organisation had previously committed almost $27,000 for maintenance between 2001 and 2004, but declined funding requests in 2008 and 2019.


“The main reason for the hesitation is due to the structural integrity of the current statue and the costs associated with its refurbishment,” community facilities manager Mark Day said.


Colac Bay and Districts Progress League member Deen McKay said the statue was created by the community so that the area could have an icon, and had proven popular.



“Many visitors can be seen taking photos with the statue in the background,” McKay said.


The community board has committed to undertaking a community survey about repairing or replacing the statue.


LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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