29 Sep 2014

Wellington sculpture set for rebuild

6:08 pm on 29 September 2014

Efforts to rebuild the prominent Wellington sculpture which was struck by lightning last month are likely to get under way in the next few weeks.

The tall orange needle, known as the Zephyrometer, had recently been reinstalled when it caught fire after it was struck by lightning during a storm.

Christchurch sculptor Phil Price was on his way to the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom when he heard the news.

Plans are afoot to repair the Zephyrometer in Wellington after it was struck by lightning.

Plans are afoot to repair the Zephyrometer in Wellington after it was struck by lightning. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Despite having no phone contact at the time he said he was told about it "in a hundred different ways, by a hundred different people.

"I had internet access from time-to-time and I could see that fabulous clip that a passer-by had taken with the actual lightning strike. It was extraordinary wasn't it? It was an extraordinary thing to happen."

Mr Price said he got back from holiday about a week ago and visited the site last weekend.

"Standing on the ground I thought that it had a hole in a fairly structural part, but when I got up to it on the scaffold that they'd built, it's not a hole, it was just a black burn mark.

"So I was able to see that it didn't appear to be structurally impaired. It's quite sad looking at the state of the thing, especially given that we've just done a 10 or 12-year birthday restoration on it."

Mr Price said he has given some thought to how the sculpture could be dismantled and restored.

He would prefer that the repairs were undertaken at his Christchurch studio, but said any decision on whether it will be repaired in Wellington or Christchurch needs to be made by the council.

Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean said the repair work is valued at $500,000, but the cost of repairs will not be known until it is dismantled and examined.

He expects it will be a six-figure sum, but said it is self-insured.

"It's covered by the council's self-insurance fund, we have a certain amount of money set aside to cover unexpected damage to various of our assets."

Mr MacLean said the council hoped the repair can begin in the next few weeks, but that depends on finding qualified people to dismantle and transport the sculpture.

He said the council would like Mr Price to restore it.

"I don't think anyone has yet said, 'No, get rid of it'. I mean, I think most people are quite fond of it and there is a will at the council, and with other people to, to get it back up and running, or swaying, as the matter may be."

Mr Price estimates it will take three to four months to repair and said there is a window of opportunity for him to do the work before the end of the year.