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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  • Dave_1924

    Who’s idea was this? How did it get through Council approval? Surely someone on the Council called out the Emporers got no clothes on this one?

    It will forever be Len’s memorial…. no rail loop Len, just a monument to grandiose stupidity…. in the shape of a state house with chandelier in it…..

    • Des Marshall

      It actually sums them up rather well Dave, really expensive lights on, nobody home.

      • Albert Root

        A bit like Franklin Rd at Christmas time.

  • flutterby

    Stupid troughers don’t mind spending other peoples money! B&T are to be commended on their generous gift of $1m, very sad about people who can’t be trusted to protect it wisely.

  • andrew carrot

    Is the proposed $700k venetian glass chandelier (hopefully not paid for by the Arts Foundation) in some way a well-directed comment on how luxurious NZ state houses are compared with, say, cardboard shacks in Calcutta slums?

    • exactchange

      We have some excellent glass artisans here in New Zealand. Unfortunately that wouldn’t involve trips to Italy.

      • andrew carrot

        Yes, it’s strange that it’s not the other way around. Auckland should send an aspiring glass artisan to Venice ($3k for airfares), give him or her a shot at the 2015 Carnevale di Venezia (about $10k for costume hire, alcohol, nightlife, if you get my drift, and entry to one or two of the more exclusive events), accommodate them at the Hotel Cipriani (about $2k a night over the season), train them for a week or two in one of the glass firms ($20k), then offer them $50k for the finished product and let them get on with it. $130k all up, a discount on current costings of $570k. Put my name at the top of the list, please.

    • darren breen

      i think the correct term is ironicism,….

  • dgrogan

    Surely, as Barfoot & Thompson are the benefactor here, they would have included some sort of approval process/veto over the artwork commissioned? If not, why not?

  • InnerCityDweller

    “Artistic problems”? Is that code for “I want more money”? Imagine a real statehouse taking that long to build and being over budget by that much and all because of “architectural problems”…

  • Pete

    Just a bunch of inept councillors and luvvy darling arty types who have no concept of budgets and project management.

    • OneTrack

      Why do they need to worry about budgets and project management. The ratepayers are paying for it.

      How do I get the ratepayers to pay for my hobbies?

      • Alright

        OT: stand for mayor, get elected. and – if a train lover – bully rate and taxpayers into buying you a gizzilion dollar train set.

      • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

        Me too. I have a hot rod I am building and could do with some aucklander rates money for my…..”art Project”.

        Len, Call me I have a mobile art installation I want to talk to you about..

        • Pete

          Hey, I have a $500K set of artistically designed,
          gender neautral, ethnic dust caps for it, I would love to be involved in this exciting project that will bring art, culture and civic pride to whatever city funds it.

          • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

            I was with up until you failed to mention if they were fair trade or organic.

    • Aucky

      …….and there’s more than a few sucking very heavily on the public tit. Whose idea was it to buy the chandelier & how many backhanders are involved? It’s over time for this project to be fully audited.

  • Des Marshall

    How much will the on-going security costs be to protect this gold plated chandelier? You can’t just leave something like that lying around unprotected. What a bunch of muppets.

  • Graeme

    Looking at the stupid chandelier cost. I assume there will be queues lining up to view it. Yeah right. We wonder why the rates are having to increase. The sooner the clowns on this council are put out to pasture , the better.

  • Vlad

    I don’t have the skills to post pictures alas, but I attach a link to a much better work of art for the purpose.

    It is only $289.

    It could be accompanied by a plaque that states: “Len Brown and his Unitary Plan 2014”

    • Vlad

      Sorry, my mistake $298 not $289, but I will contribute the difference if the Council accepts it.

  • Yeahright

    Wellington has a sandpit you can buy off us, every state house needs a sandpit! $70,000, going cheap.

  • sheppy

    Are they destroying the cloud for this?

    • Platinum Fox

      I think Len’s shanty is intended to be placed near the NE corner of the wharf, so on the other side from The Cloud. It will have to be far enough clear of the edge of the wharf to enable handling of the cruise ships’ mooring ropes to be unimpeded, so I guess it will go somewhere in the area currently used for parking cars and vans when events are on in Shed 10 or The Cloud (and an AT vehicle most of the time). It will probably block the current access to that car park, so require additional expense to create a new access way.

      • sheppy

        Ah so merely shafting car drivers by making them go to the nearby council car parks with their recently inflated prices.
        Thanks for the clarification

        • Platinum Fox

          I believe that (apart from the AT person who seems to park there most days) the parking on the end of Queens Wharf is only available for “authorised” use by the firms which service functions/events and cruise ships. There’s no public parking on the wharf and access is more difficult since the entrance/exit was moved east – it’s no longer opposite the bottom of Queen Street where it had been served by the traffic lights.

          • sheppy

            I was thinking for the exhibitors, I’ve parked round the back of the cloud when visiting an exhibitor before. Less parking presumably means some exhibitors will have to pay to park? Hardly helpful when your unloading equipment and supplies!

  • Alright

    Make no mistake – the outrageous capital cost of this edifice is just the tip of an iceberg.

    Ratepayers will be paying for security guards, maintenance, etc for the rest of time.

    Add another $50 a year to your rates bill….

  • Lord Evans

    Why was it named the Light House? Barfoot & Thompson’s generous donation causes council to get LIGHT headed, going way over budget, but then using their LIGHT fingers to LIGHTen the pockets of ratepayers, already suffering from Len’s LIGHTweight leadership, and furthermore making LIGHT of his pledge to have only LIGHT rate increases. Its no wonder Whale Oil LIGHTs into the Council shedding some much needed LIGHT on yet another blown budget.

  • Win

    This is the gift that keeps on giving for B&T, because everytime it is mentioned they get free advertising.

  • Bartman

    For all the unity this centralised Council malarkey is supposed to bring, there’s bugger all evidence of any delivery. Wellington has every right to be nervous!

  • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

    Words fail me (well any that can be printed)

    How the hell did a project like this that will serve no purpose other than to give the art officianardoes some thing to goose them selves over?

    Who the hell approved the spending of such a huge sum on what will be a waste of space in an area where space is a premium?

    Do those bankrolling this farse feel they are getting value for money?

    Does the public think the money is well spent?

    Perhaps a smaller sculpture in a park and a donation to a charity (starship maybe) wouldve been a better idea.

    Just gobsmacked at the idiocy of those with too much money.

    • SP

      …too much of OUR money!

  • Platinum Fox

    It’s worth remembering that the Council’s Downtown Framework shows four possible options for accommodating cruise ships – two options have cruise ships at other wharves and Queens Wharf primarily for open space and one shows Queens Wharf extended to accommodate longer ships.
    Len’s shack will need to be built to be transportable to a new location, otherwise it won’t be viewable from cruise ships or be a ‘lighthouse’ at the end of the wharf as it is intended.

  • johnnymanukau.

    Peter Thompson would have been better off spending that money to improve their agents and branch managers training, because as sure as night is dark they need it.
    It was a bad decision on his part to make that donation to the ACC. and he wont be remembered

  • abbaby

    I think of a Mr Kumar, who was rejected NZ residency due to needing dialysis. Yet the money required for letting him live was a mere fourth of this art project.