On the road: Hotere Garden Oputae

We stumbled across this small garden by accident while visiting Port Chalmers, near Dunedin. Heading up the hill to see the Robert Scott Memorial (unveiled May 30, 1914), I spotted a sign for ‘Hotere Garden’ and requested a detour.

The garden opened in 2005 ‘fulfilling the wishes of Ralph Hotere‘ (1931-2013) to return four sculptures to Observation Point. They had previously been displayed in Mr Hotere’s nearby studio, but in 1993 it was demolished, along with some of the bluff on which it stood, despite local protests, to make way for port development. Apparently the garden was part of the settlement between the two parties.

In 2008 the garden by Design and Garden Landscapes Ltd won the Landscape Industries Association of NZ premier award for the best use of native plants, a gold award for landscape horticulture and a silver award for landscape design.

Company owner Wayne Butson said the planting had been deliberately kept simple to enhance the sculptures and the views.

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Aramoana, by Chris Booth, was originally constructed in 1982 and decorated with more beach flotsam and jetsam. Aramoana, a beachside settlement south of Port Chalmers, was to be the site of an aluminium smelter – this piece was by way of a protest. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Black Phoenix II by Ralph Hotere uses part of a fishing boat that burned in a yard in 1984. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Another part of the boat’s timber was used in Black Phoenix held at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Renowned actor Sam Neill helped prepare some of the wood for Black Phoenix: Not long after beginning, Ralph said he had to slip away. Something pressing. Three or four hours later, he returned; casually mentioned he was sorry, he’d got caught up in the pub. Read more from Remembering Ralph Hotere.

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Brick Column by Russell Moses is made from a kiln once used by Coromandel potter Barry Brickell, while the iron bar is recycled from the port. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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This photo doesn’t do justice to They do cut down the poles that hold up the sky by Shona Rapira Davies but the vegetation has grown since it was put it place and it wasn’t a sunny day.


Read more about the sculptures here.

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Finally, a bumblebee busy in harakeke (flax) in the garden. Look at that articulation between head and body! Photo: Sandra Simpson




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