Port Taranaki has preserved contact with a piece of its past through an impressive engineered work of art.
Standing tall on the grass area just outside the Port Taranaki Centre, the 5.5m, 2.5 tonne structure was designed by Taranaki artist Steve Molloy, of Korver Molloy Gallery, and constructed by Pace Engineering.
Named Contact, the sculpture is made from steel beams and turbine blades salvaged from the turbine hall during the part-demolition of the old New Plymouth power station, which sits on port land.
It was commissioned to commemorate the long association between Port Taranaki and the power station. As the plaque at the base of the artwork reads, the colour represents the building, the turbines represent power, and the beams show structure and strength. The plaque itself also exudes relevance – it sits on a cracked stone, symbolising the volatile nature of Taranaki’s geology.
“Contact has electrical connotations, but in reality it also refers to the contact between Taranaki, its people and its energy reserves, especially the Kapuni and Maui gas fields, which both powered it for a time,’’ Port Taranaki Chief Executive Guy Roper explained.
“There is also obviously a synergy in that it was the name of the last owners, Contact Energy.”
Mr Molloy began by sorting through and choosing pieces from the mountain of metal at the power station site, laying them out and photographing them, and then coming up with three designs from which Port Taranaki could choose.
“The design was based on other works of mine but was also a unique work that I had wanted to do for some time, particularly working with I-beams,” Mr Molloy said. “It was about distance and illusion – when you look at it from front on it looks one-dimensional, but as you move around it separates and changes.”
The design chosen, Mr Molloy worked closely with Craig Treanor, the contracts manager at Pace Engineering, to make the idea a reality. Mr Treanor built a 3-D model of the artwork before the steel was cut and laid out to determine how it would fit together.
“It was quite a lengthy process,” Mr Treanor said. “It was not a hard job but some of the materials were not easily welded and there was a lot of backward and forward between us and Steve to make sure he was getting what he wanted.”
But early in May – more than six months and 300 man hours after the process began – Pace Engineering was onsite to erect the sculpture.
“We were extremely pleased with the result. We had done some smaller art projects in the past, but this was by far the biggest. It was fantastic to be part of a unique project and it has forged a strong relationship with us, Steve and Port Taranaki,” Mr Treanor said.
Mr Molloy is also thrilled with the end result.
“Pace did a great job. There were a lot of challenges throughout but it came out exact to design and it’s really satisfying to see a piece of my own art in such a prominent position.”
The Contact project involved a number of individuals and companies who either gave their time or sponsored their costs, for which Port Taranaki is hugely grateful.
“This has given the port an important piece that will stand as a reminder to this hugely important era for Taranaki,” Mr Roper said.