Taupo Sculptures & Public Art

Enjoy a huge variety of sculptures, arts and crafts from the Great Lake Taupo region. Artistic works reflect the landscape and spiritual background of the beautiful lake, plateaus and mountains. 

The Great Lake Taupo region is blessed with many stunning public sculptures and works of art, all of which have stories to tell. Be inspired by the performers' and artists' vision and skills, many of which are motivated by this special part of New Zealand. 

The formation of the Taupo Sculpture Trust began when a small group of enthusiasts decided the time was right to add some dynamic shape and culture to the Lake Taupo region. The Taupo Sculpture Trust is dedicated to providing contemporary sculpture for public spaces around the Great Lake in order to enhance the urban environment and to further support the creative arts in New Zealand. 

The following sculptures can be found around Taupo:


Heartland Sculpture

Location: Tongariro South Domain, near the Taupo Museum

The ‘Heartland Sculpture’ represents Taupo’s position as the heart of the North Island and was handed over to the Taupo District Council on Sunday 25 September 2011 by the Friends of the Lake Taupo Museum and Art Gallery Inc.

The Heartland Sculpture, which sits proudly on the Tongariro South Domain, was constructed by local artist Brett Taylor, who took inspiration from the early settlers of Taupo. The heart is made of stone and is covered with 10mm of high-tech coloured and clear resins. The massive stained Matai logs that create the main structure around the heart were hauled out of the Waipohotu Forest near Mangakino. Brett says the heavy structure, fastened with bronze straps, represents the infrastructure and hard work of early New Zealand settlers. The bronze stars at the top of the wooden structure represent those used by settlers to navigate to New Zealand.

View more of Brett’s work 


The Cloak of Tia

Location: Great Lake Centre, near the entrance

The first sculpture from the Taupo Sculpture Trust, ‘The Cloak of Tia’, was unveiled on Friday, 16th October 2009, by Mayor Rick Cooper and the Sculpture Trust Chairman Ian Smith in front of a very appreciative crowd. The 3 metre high glass towers stand at the entrance to the Great Lake Centre, a testament to the great Maori explorer and Ngāti Tūwharetoa ancestor Tia.

The contemporary sculpture was the creation of renowned glass artist Lynden Over of Lava Glass Studio in Wairakei. The sculptor explained his inspiration for the piece with the following: “The blue and green hues represent the lake and the surrounding forest and the red and brown hues represent the fiery volcanic nature of the region”. 

The sculpture is made up of 4,000 individually handmade pieces of glass representing the feathers from the Cloak of Tia. The left over feathers are available as limited edition commemorative pieces at the Lava Glass Gallery. One of the four inset plaques gives a full explanation of the making of this sculpture and the rhyolite pedestal on which it is set.

View the story of The Great Cloak of Tia


Ngatoro-i-Rangi Toa Matarau - Contact Energy’s Gift to the People of Taupo

Location: A gateway to the Taupo War Memorial Cenotaph, outside the Great Lake Centre

Dawn on Saturday the 14th of November 2009 saw around 1000 people join members of the Taupo RSA at the entrance to the Taupo War Memorial to unveil Contact Energy's Gift to the People of Taupo. The 9 metre high sculpture is a waharoa or spiritual entrance that now stands as a gateway to the Taupo War Memorial Cenotaph on Tongariro Street in Taupo.

It was designed and carved by local master carver Delani Brown, who is of Ngati Tuwharetoa/ Raukawa descent. He worked closely with Ngati Tuwharetoa kaumatua to receive the stories, wisdom and historical knowledge that underpin the stories depicted in the carving.

The waharoa has been sculpted from ancient totara sourced from the Waipohutu Forest of the Pouakani lands. It features carvings that tell a symbolic and spiritual story about the arrival of geothermal energy to the Taupo region. Ngati Tuwharetoa selected the site outside the Great Lake Centre for the waharoa because it is a place for the whole community to reflect and remember those who have passed on.

The waharoa undergoes maintenance every year ahead of Anzac Day to ensure it is looking its best when the cenotaph area is a focus. Taupo District Council arranges for scaffolding to go up around the waharoa so that it can be cleaned, painted and any minor repairs completed. This process takes approximately 10 days. Because the waharoa is a wood carving that is exposed to the elements, it needs regular care.

View the story of the waharoa Ngatoro-i-rangi Toa Matarau


The Crossing

Location: Lake Terrace

The Crossing” by local artist Robbie Graham represents the awe-inspiring volcanic peaks of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing enjoyed by so many locals and visitors to our region. This sculpture was created from pine poles, local Tauhara stone, and embellished by pyrography designs depicting cultural aspects of the lake and mountains.

The Crossing is a collaborative gift funded by private donation and supported by the Taupo District Council and Creative Taupo, 2011. You are invited to take a walk through “The Crossing!”

View more of Robbie Graham's work


Reid's Carving

Location : Lake Terrace

Reid’s Carving is a beautiful Maori carving at the corner of Tongariro Street and Ferry Road that frames a picturesque view of Lake Taupo. It was built in 1961 by carver Tene Waitere and was originally located on Tongariro Domain at the entrance to what was then the town’s sportsfield.

The carving symbolises a woman, Lucy Rongoheikume Rickit, who was a descendant of the tribes Tuhourangi of Rotorua and Tuwharetoa of Taupo. The carving commemorates the great Maori leaders who founded the two tribes and how they came together through the whakapapa or lineage of Mrs Ruihi (Lucy) Rongoheikume Reid (nee Rickit).

Tene Waitere (1854-1931) descended from Ngati Tarawhai (Rotorua) and was Mrs Reid’s uncle. He was considered one of New Zealand’s most prolific and innovative Māori carvers of his time. George Reid gifted the collection to the people of the Taupo District after his wife passed away in 1960. 

Due to damage caused by the elements and general wear and tear, the Reid’s Carving was refurbished to restore its vibrancy. After many months of restoration work Reid’s carving was reinstalled on the lakefront on 27 February 2015. A rededication sevice was held with the Reid family who were very pleased to see the carvings restored to their former glory.


Flip – a Kinetic Sculpture

Location: Colonel Roberts Reserve, Lake Terrace

This contemporary sculpture by Phil Price was made in 2009. It comprises of a steel box sectioned upright pole, a precision mechanical head and four red tablets. The components are all finely balanced so that, when there is no wind, they stand up giving the sculpture an overall height of 7 metres above the ground.

As the wind blows the four tablets move independently in an indefinitely variable series of twists and rotations.

Phil Price’s outdoor kinetic sculptures are all finely crafted and built of the best materials to last and be resilient in extreme outdoor conditions. FLIP is a unique sculpture for Taupo and now joins the many sculptures that Phil Price has located in other towns and cities both in New Zealand and Australia. Other examples of work by Phil Price include ‘Zephrometer ‘ and ‘Protoplasm’ in Wellington, and ‘Cytoplasm’ in Auckland.

View more of Phil's work


Momentum and Twister 11

Location: Suncourt Shopping Centre, Tamamutu Street

In cast aluminium and stainless steel, Ben Foster’s Momentum and Twister 11 are dynamic, elegant and tactile. The 2011 pieces both shimmer in the sunlight and are sensual to touch. The curves along with the kinetic movement ensure that they make an impression.

Momentum is 1.6 metres in diameter and reflects the sun's rays as it rotates. Twister 11 is a glistening form, welded, polished and sealed, creating a confident and balanced form. Sitting on a plinth, this work can be rotated.

Kaikoura based Ben Foster pares back sculptural forms to harness geographical features that inspire him. While his works emulate natural forms, he revels in the mechanical engineering that facilitates their creation. His works are testament to his technical expertise and craftsmanship.

Find out more about Ben Foster’s work


Swell – 2011

Location: Lake Terrace, opposite Ruapehu Street on the lakefront

Made from stainless steel and glass, this wave structure by Colleen Ryan-Priest represents a long wavelength surface that travels long distances across a body of water like the ocean. It was made with a lighthearted sense of fun and an environmental intent.

SWELL is a technical term for this type of wind wave. It is a stable, clean wave, free of chop, and it doesn’t break. The long gentle curves of the stainless steel and glass sculpture reflect this type of wave.

Stainless steel provides the wave structure and glass is used to capture the ephemeral qualities of translucence, colour, the movement of light and wind through the water.

This work has been constructed as one convex and one concave continuous curve sitting on its edge. Hand cut and faceted glass blocks have been inserted in a channel along the top edge of the bead blasted stainless steel frame. The work is 5 metres long with a 150mm edge and is 1.2 metres at its highest point above ground.

The title of the work also provides a light-hearted sense of fun. The word ‘swell’ can be used as a colloquialism to denote first rate, distinction and stylish (as any self respecting sculpture should be). So this sculpture can be enjoyed as different things to different people, despite the artist’s environmental intent.

Colleen Ryan-Priest is a Hamilton based artist who, for the past 10 years, has been working with glass. She is an artist and landscape architect who has been involved with sculpture, land art installations and the design and planning of urban and wilderness environments for 25 years.

Find out more about Colleen Ryan-Priest’s work


Upane (on loan)

Location : Lake Terrace Water Treatment Plant

The sculpture, Upane, has been crafted by Steuart Welch and constructed in cor-ten steel. It was erected in May 2015 and is on loan to the Taupo Sculpture Trust.

Steuart is a farmer and owns a nursery in Marton, and a sculptor in his spare time. He has previously been a furniture maker and his artistic career began with making farm gates using found objects.

Over the years he has progressed to making finely engineered sculptures and he has exhibited widely in the central NorthIsland over the last decade.

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