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Grant Williams Sculpture planned for new Town Basin Park

This page contains a news story about a sculpture by Grant Williams that is intended for the new Town Basin Park on the Whangarei waterfront.
Updated: 20/12/2019 11:09 a.m.

​Standing proudly in the heart of the new Town Basin park will be a large new public artwork celebrating the past, present and future of Whangarei Harbour.

An artist’s impression of the new Town Basin park. Note: sculpture design, next to the interactive water feature, is indicative only and not shown to scale.

The kinetic sculpture by Grant Williams will be constructed of two shimmering stainless-steel panels that will reflect the surrounding environment.

At just under eight-metres high, the panels are finely balanced to move in the wind, providing an ever-changing dynamic display.

Grant says one panel represents fresh water, while the other represents sea water, reflecting the merging of these different waters at the site of the park.

“Moving and meeting together, they celebrate Whangarei Harbour as a special meeting place that has provided a connection point for human activity over many generations,” he says. “The sculpture pays homage to the winds that made early migration possible for Pacific and European voyagers alike. It also nods to the flags that were used by settlers to signal the arrival of incoming ships.”

Each panel will have imagery and text incorporated into its edges and Grant will be working with hapū, iwi, kaumātua and master carvers to ensure correct protocol and symbolism is included. LED lights will be installed in perforations in the edges to echo home fires flickering on the shoreline and provide night-time drama.

“My desire is for this sculpture to challenge people’s perception about their place in the physical world. I want to invite them to be present in the moment and, at the same time, move them towards a future that’s unpredictable and bright,” says Grant.

Sculptor carries on father's legacy

Grant Williams’s first public artwork was a mural painted on a carpark wall in downtown Whangārei.

He was 11-years-old and a student at Whangarei Intermediate at the time.

Photograph of the artist, Grant Williams. “I don’t think the wall exists now, let alone the mural,” says the now internationally recognised sculptor whose large-scale kinetic sculptures can be found as far away as Brazil.

Grant was selected as the winner from more than 40 artists who put forward designs for the major public artwork for the new Town Basin park.

He comes from a strong family background of sculpture in Whangārei. His father Clive Williams taught high school art in Whangārei for many years and produced many public sculptures and murals from the late sixties until his untimely death in 1993.

“This was a time when few people even knew what public art was or its benefits to communities and society,” says Grant. “He led by example and produced countless works.  His efforts made young people including myself see what was possible.”

Graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1991, Grant has produced numerous private and public sculptures around New Zealand.

His large kinetic works draw on engineering technology and methods not commonly used in the art world, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in creating sculpture.

“I am honoured to be given this opportunity to create a sculpture for my home town Whangārei. This commission gives me the opportunity to truly carry on my father’s legacy.”

Unique cultural and historical stories honoured

Research into the site of the new Town Basin Park has uncovered some fascinating Māori and European history, which has been woven into the narratives of the new public space.

As part of the park’s design stage, Matakohe Architecture + Urbanism researched written and oral historical stories of the area and Council held several workshops with hapū members from Te Parawhau to further explore early Māori use of the site. Heritage consultants Geometria also prepared a history and archaeology report.

This work informed five key cultural and historical themes reflected in the landscape and design elements of the new park.

Pathways to the sea, where fresh and salt water meet

  • The paving pattern used within the park references the Hatea River, Waiarohia Stream and Raumanga Stream which all flow into the Whangarei Harbour

Connection between harbour and inland to access food sources

  • This important historical connection point is referenced by a diagonal path that connects the Riverside Drive/Dent St/Hatea Drive pedestrian intersection to the Town Basin

Flight path of Kotuku (white heron)

  • A graphic interpretation of kotuku will be created on the ground of the balance park play space while curved sculptural corten steel panels will reference the shape of the bird’s neck

Early European settlement

  • Ornamental pear trees, Pyrus calleryana, will be planted in a grid pattern reflecting the large orchard and market gardens that once stretched over the site

Flag signalling

  • The arrival of ships was observed from Lookout Hill with a flag signalling to those in the Town Basin to hoist their flags, bringing settlers to the wharf. This is referenced in the design of Grant Williams’s kinetic sculpture

More information about the new park is available here:



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