Barfoot & Thompson’s $1.5 million state house that nobody can live in. Still

Poor Barfoot & Thompson.  They give $1M to the Auckland Council to fund the creation of some kind of art work to commemorate their part as a corporate citizen that has been part of the New Zealand landscape for century, and as sure as night follows day, the Auckland Council stuff it up so badly, it’s making Barfoot & Thompson look like idiots by association.

Artistic problems and political bickering are plaguing the $1.5 million “lighthouse” sculpture on Queens Wharf. It is now more than two years behind schedule and $500,000 over the original budget.

The sculpture at the end of Queens Wharf will not be completed until June 2016 after early assurances by the Auckland Council to carry out the project by mid-2014, later revised to Anniversary Weekend 2015.

Real estate firm Barfoot & Thompson wanted to be the sole funder with a gift of $1 million, but the cost blew out to $1.924 million before being pulled back to $1.5 million.

Yesterday, the location, cost, process and even the name of the sculpture led to angry exchanges between councillors at a project update.

Officers said the design of the house structure was complete, but the complex design of a $705,000 Venetian glass chandelier to go inside the house would not be finished until February next year.

The “lighthouse”, based on a Mt Eden state house, will be filled with a glowing glass chandelier depicting a coloured glass garden of native flowers, birds and insects.

This would be the Italian, cut glass chandelier that is projected to cost $700,000 all by itself.

Impertinent question:  When Barfoot & Thompson committed $1M to this art project, why didn’t the Council actually build a $1M art installation?  

Documents, obtained under the Official Information Act by the Herald, show artist Michael Parekowhai signed a contract to complete the design work by November last year.

Glass-makers in New Zealand, the United States and Europe are being invited to tender for the chandelier. Parekowhai had pushed for a Venetian crystal chandelier.

Councillors heard that a private individual has made a verbal offer of $100,000 to help meet the $500,000 shortfall and attract other money. The Arts Foundation is also getting involved in fund-raising and a tertiary institute may get students involved in the construction of the house.

Chief operating officer Dean Kimpton said there had been “some frustration” on the part of Barfoot & Thompson chief executive Peter Thompson over the project but the real estate firm was committed to its gift and the project.

Councillor Cameron Brewer said his feedback was that the company had been appalled at the process and hauled over the coals for “a disaster from beginning to end”.

Everyone should just stop now. Whatever is left of the money should go to establishing something that actually benefits the community.  Perhaps Barfoot & Thompson could provide infrastructure for the Starship Hospital, or provide communal housing that the City Mission can run.

Something that actually adds to the quality of life of some people, and doesn’t suck even more money out of the pockets of long suffering rate payers.


– Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.