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28-year-old charged with breaking Len Lye’s water whirler

water-whirler
Photo: Wellington City Council

Report from RNZ
A 28-year-old man has been charged with wilful damage over breaking the $300,000 Len Lye sculpture on Wellington’s waterfront.

The Water Whirler sculpture was snapped in when the man climbed to the top of it.

In a video, Hunter MacDonald apologised and promised to do whatever was required to make amends.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said while the apology was nice, pursing a civil claim against Mr MacDonald was pointless. But he would like to see some community service, and a court may decide to force some reparation.

“It’s just a really silly act and rightfully Wellingtonians have been very, very disappointed.”

The court appearance is due in the next couple of weeks.

Report from RNZ – October 9
Insurance will cover the cost to repair a popular Len Lye Sculpture on the city’s waterfront which was snapped in two by a man climbing on it. The sculpture cost more than $1m to be installed in 2006, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said. He said the council would pay for the artwork to be repaired, but insurance would cover the costs.

Wellington Sculpture Trust chair Sue Elliot told Morning Report it was disappointing considering it was close to being reopened.

“It was appalling and particularly because we were so close to getting it back up and running after a real concerted and team effort that’s been going on for the last 12 months,” she said. “It’s set us back months probably when we were expecting to have the grand unveiling again in the next four weeks.” However, she said it could still be repaired.

“We’ve had volunteers – Ghost Fishing rang the mayor yesterday and they are a group of volunteers going to retrieve the pole – and then the same team who have been working on the engineering for the last 12 months will get back to work.”

She said up until this episode it would not have been considered a safety risk but there was now talks of installing a barrier around the sculpture.

Report from RNZ – October 8
A Len Lye sculpture on Wellington’s waterfront that cost more than $1 million to install has been broken by a man swinging on it. A Wellington city council spokesperson said the man had been injured and taken to hospital.

She said the council is working with police over the incident, and the area has been cordoned off. The council said what happened is very disappointing.

The Water Whirler sculpture cost more than $1m to be installed in 2006, Wellington mayor Justin Lester said. He said there had been problems with people climbing on it for years. “Which has caused quite a number of malfunctions and unfortunately today is the last example of someone behaving really inappropriately, and snapping it off.”

He said the man’s behaviour was “silly”.

Len Lye was one of the world’s best kinetic artists, Mr Lester said, and had spent a lot of time in Wellington. The city had wanted to recognise his work and the Water Whirler was one of his original designs.

“It’s an important part of art and culture here in Wellington, but actually for the entire country,” the mayor said.

It was unfortunate it had been besieged by problems, with the public climbing on it. It was too soon to say how much the sculpture would cost to fix, but the council would try and get it fixed.

“We might be having chats to the individual involved just to see how we end up paying for this.”

The police said the man was in a moderate condition in Wellington Hospital.

“I’m glad the individual is being looked after in hospital, but we would prefer it if people didn’t climb on it,” said Mr Lester.

It was also too soon to say whether charges would be pressed against the man.

The council said the sculpture was not turned on as maintenance was being done on it.