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Te Kūiti shearing statue time capsule to be opened after 30 years

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Te Kūitis iconic sheep shearing statue. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Te Kūiti’s “town icon” has a secret

The town’s statue of a shearer in Memorial Park has a treasure stashed inside it that will soon see the light of day.

In 1994, shortly after the statue was unveiled, the community came together to create three time capsules that were placed inside it.

At the end of this month, the first capsule would be opened, with the other two set to follow in 2054 and 2084.

The idea for the time capsules came from artist Denis Hall, now 82, who created the sculpture and thought it would be a great opportunity to preserve a piece of history.

“[The statue unveiling] was a historic thing. The statue is gonna be there for a long time and my common sense told me the statue is going to become more important to the community as years go by.”

Waitomo District Council said it was made aware of the time capsules and the fact that the first one was meant to be retrieved this year.

A council spokesperson said the statue was commissioned by the Shearing Capital Promotions Group, a community group dedicated to putting Te Kūiti on the map as the shearing capital of the world.

Hall said he was approached by champion shearer John Fagan to create the sculpture.

“I was running a very active sculpture studio at Ōruawharo Homestead [in Hawke’s Bay] where we made these tabletop sculptures,” Hall said.

“One day, George Hanratty… a shearer, knocked on my door to show me a sculpture [of a man shearing a sheep] that he carved out of one piece of wood.

“It was a bit over a metre tall… very detailed. [At the studio] we made a copy of it, maybe 15 inches tall, from clay and resin to sell in shops and markets.

“One day, John Fagan walked in [our studio] with one of George’s sculptures and asked if it was made here … he said he wanted a bigger version of that… as a town icon for Te Kūiti .”

The iconic shearing statue in Te Kūiti. Photo / Greg Bowker
The iconic shearing statue in Te Kūiti. Photo / Greg Bowker

Fagan originally wanted the sculpture to be life-size, but Hall advised against it.

“It has to be a bit bigger to be called an icon, I said [to him].”

In the end, the statue, made from glass-reinforced spray cement, ended up being six metres tall. Hall said he made it in 12 pieces at Oruawharo Homestead which were then “trucked off” to be assembled in Te Kūiti.

“The statue has a big concrete slab up inside the back of it for balance, but… it is basically hollow. I could sit inside his head back in the day,” Hall said.

Former Governor General Dame Catherine Tizard unveiled the sculpture in March 1994 and it quickly became an iconic landmark.

Two months after the unveiling, the sculpture was opened to place the time capsules inside.

An article from the Waitomo News at the time, said the time capsules were a way to ensure the town always remembered the day it unveiled the statue and gave people the chance to put something away for future residents.

Hall had “no idea” what was in the time capsules, but in a social media post, Waitomo District Council said local dignitaries, families, schools, and the general public were invited to contribute.

“We think it will contain letters and photos, but we are not entirely sure – it will be a surprise,” a council spokesperson said.

It was expected the capsules also contained plans of the statue and photographs of its unveiling.

Waitomo District Council would hold a special event on May 24 at 10am where the first time capsule will be retrieved and then opened at the Les Munro Centre.

“From what we know, whoever contributed put [their memorabilia] in a sealed envelope or parcel which was then placed in the capsule. Everyone who contributed will be given their parcel and they can choose to open it in private or in public,” a council spokesperson said.

“It will be up to the owners [of the parcel] to decide what to do with it. Council could look into preserving it if that’s what they want.”

Hall said Te Kūiti’s statue of the shearer was the biggest sculpture he ever made.

“I got my foot in Te Kūiti forever now.”

Hall suggested the event would provide an opportunity to put a new time capsule inside the statue, additionally to the ones created in 1994.

When the Waikato Herald approached the council on Hall’s idea, a spokesperson said the council was in discussions about the opportunity.

Waitomo mayor John Robertson said he hadn’t been living in the district when the time capsules were placed in the statue, but he was looking forward to seeing what’s inside the capsules.



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