Is the Ewingsdale roundabout sculpture a safe and secure structure? Yes, according to Byron Shire Council staff, who claim in an online statement that engineering requirements have been met.
Yet the controversial artwork could be soon removed if a motion by Cr Jan Hackett is passed at the next Council meeting.
Last week, she told The Echo that, as a public art panellist, her group were unhappy with the result and process that led to its construction.
She says the work remains incomplete, and concerns about materials used were brushed aside by staff, she says.
‘The change of materials [to aluminium] greatly concerned the public art panel (PAP) as they were no longer confident that the original concept could indeed be constructed in a lighter material.’
Cr Hackett says her motion for Council will seek to decommission the work, ask for a report on how the public art panel were locked out of the process and will ‘ask what went wrong, and who in Council signed off and allowed it go ahead.’
She adds, ‘The artist arrived two days early to install the work, but Council staff had not organised the proper paperwork for him to have site access at that time.’ More delays were experienced throughout installation, Cr Hackett says, and owing to problems not associated with the artist, it was impossible for him to complete the work on time.
Fellow councillor Paul Spooner echoed the questions raised by Cr Hackett.
He told The Echo they ‘need to be answered and determined before undertaking rectification work.’
He said, ‘Along with most of the community, I was shocked by the unveiling of the roundabout sculpture. It’s clear the installation is not what was expected.
‘A number of questions need to be answered and determined before undertaking rectification work.
‘Which Council staff or councillors were involved in approving the commissioning as resolved by Council in August 2018?
Panel in the dark
‘A subcommittee of the PAP was to oversee the commissioning of the work. It is not clear who was involved, as PAP members seem to be in the dark about it.
‘On what basis was the go-ahead given for the installation of the work? Most people would understand if you order a product and it is not what you agreed to buy then it’s fair it be returned or [you could] at least negotiate another alternative.
‘This leads me to believe that one option would be to decommission the work and recycle the birds and frame so that it may be redesigned into a more acceptable and agreed-upon public artwork.
The location of such a work could be determined at a later time.
‘Finally, the experts appointed to the public art panel need to be involved in all steps of the process, including a follow through of initial acceptance in the commissioning of works.’
When asked if he thinks the art work should be removed, Cr Michael Lyon told The Echo, ‘It is a difficult one for me as though I consider myself a creative problem solver, that’s pretty much where my creativity and artistic ability end’.
‘Ultimately, if the vast majority of our residents do not want the sculpture there, I think we need to take this on the chin and learn from it and move it away from that spot.
‘I do like the idea that has been floated around a potential artwork representing our Indigenous heritage and involving local artists.’
Council staff were asked for comment; they replied by pointing to Council’s August 23 meeting that approved the work.
Cr Lyon added the ‘roundabout itself is working well and we longer have the issues of traffic trying to leave the industrial estate that had been such an issue.’ That this was completed on time and within budget and is fit for purpose is of much greater concern to me. The cost of the roundabout, if poorly managed, could have blown out by 10-20 times the cost of the sculpture, but it didn’t.’
Council staff were asked for comment – they replied by pointing to Council’s August 23 meeting, which approved the work.