Birds soar in new Waiuku artwork

Sculpture marks mill's place in Waiuku

Publish Date : 05 Aug 2020
Fred Graham's birds soar into the sky, celebrating the lives that have been touched by the Glenbrook steel mill.
Artist and Waiuku taonga Fred Graham adresses the crowd on hand to see his work unveiled.

Auckland’s newest piece of public art has been unveiled in Waiuku.

Commissioned to recognise NZ Steel’s Glenbrook mill’s 50th anniversary in 2015, the eight-metre steel statue, designed by acclaimed local artist Fred Graham, was brought to life by an army of Waiuku and districts engineers and tradespeople.

Graham says its triangular panels depict the three Franklin sites that converge to see steel forged at the mill, Taharoa, Waikato North Head and Glenbrook.

Fifty birds adorn the panels, the cut-outs recognising the lives of those connected to the mill who have passed, and the shaped birds the lives of those now associated with the mill, and the whanau supported by that relationship.

Inside the triangle, pipes can be seen, honouring the pipeline that ultimately sees iron sand shaped into steel.

“Atop the structure are three birds rising into the sky, the past, the present and the future,” the artist told the large crowd gathered for the opening.

“Those elements are important because they recognise how important the mill has been to past generations - putting food on our tables, to us now, and to Waiuku and whanau yet to come.”

Sixty tonnes of concrete make up a huge plinth for the almost two tonnes of steel that make up the statue, which can be lit at night.

NZ Steel’s Glenbrook chief executive Glenda Stephens told the gathering that solidity honoured the relationship the mill felt to the town.

“We are anchored here, this is where our people live and play, it’s a place at the heart of the mill’s community.

“We want people to continue to come here and see a work that reflects our commitment to Waiuku, forged out of turning iron sand into the steel that sustains us.”

Franklin Local Board member and Waiuku town manager Sharlene Druyven says having an artist with Fred’s mana and skill as part of the community made him an obvious choice to imagine the statue.

“He has created something that will stand as an enduring monument to the mill, but which will also be a legacy for future generations of his own whanau, and the wider Waiuku community.”

Featuring the Waiuku Stream, Centennial Park on Kitchener Road is commonly referred to by locals as Lions Lake. As a council facility, permission had to be obtained to put the sculpture in the park.

Franklin Local Board chair Andy Baker says the board was more than happy to see that happen. “Fred’s work is going to attract people into the park and make it better used for generations to come.”

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