Sculpture milestone for Kilwell Rotorua



31 January 2020

The finish line is in sight for Kilwell Rotorua’s team with the second helix of the Hemo sculpture now standing at its full height.

A crane helped lift the four quarters of the sculpture’s outer helix into place this week and the team at Kilwell are gearing up to attach the connection pieces between each quarter. 

This stage marks the beginning of the end of what has been a challenging project but Kilwell Chief Executive Craig Wilson says that the hard part isn’t over quite yet.

“This is a definite milestone for our team. They have all had a hand in creating this structure so to see it standing now is something we are all proud of.

“Creating a structure of this size out of these materials has never been done before. There’s been no manual or instructions to follow, just our team engineering solutions like Kilwell has done in Rotorua for 60 years.

Mr Wilson says that there is still more work to do to make sure the sculpture is ready to fly to its home at the Hemo gorge roundabout.  

“Then it will be up to Mother Nature to make sure we have a date for installation. There are a number of factors that need to line up to make sure we can get the sculpture to its home.”

These factors include the weather, confirming the Traffic Management Plan and the availability of the helicopter and its pilot, who is currently in Australia assisting with the effort to extinguish the bush fires.

For now, the team at Kilwell will continue with the work to finish the sculpture and ready it for installation.

More about the Hemo sculpture:


The sculpture was inspired by the story of Te Arawa tohunga Ngātoroirangi, who was responsible for the safe passage of people to New Zealand. Designed by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Te Puia, the sculpture illustrates the origins of geothermal. 

While exploring south of Rotorua Ngātoroirangi almost perished from the cold atop Tongariro and called for his sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa to send heat and warmth to save him. They travelled beneath sea and land in the form of fire, creating a geothermal corridor and valleys such as Whakarewarewa as they travelled and surfaced at various locations in search of him. NZMACI has a Government mandate to perpetuate, preserve and promote Māori arts and crafts, and the sculpture is another way it can fulfill this mandate.


Creating the sculpture for the roundabout is a joint project between NZ Transport Agency and Rotorua Lakes Council with funding contributions from Red Stag, the Rotorua Community Arts Trust, Lion Foundation, Infinity Foundation and Rotorua Trust.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Urban Design Guidelines say public art can be successfully integrated in the design of highway corridors to deliver a number of benefits including:

  • creating a sense of arrival
  • bolstering a community’s identity and sense of pride
  • helping integrate infrastructure elements into the wider environment
  • integrating cultural heritage and values at the city’s gateway

This sculpture will also play a key role in Council’s aim to revitalise the city’s gateways.

For Te Puia | New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, the sculpture provides another opportunity to perpetuate, preserve and promote Māori Art and Craft, as outlined in its Government mandate

Calls for expressions from artists were made in November 2015 with Te Puia | New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute’s concept selected in April 2016.

After the initial contractor wasn’t able to construct the sculpture local firm Kilwell Fibretube approached Council to take on the project.


Being the first structure in the world of this size, and of these materials, the team at Kilwell have come up against a number of challenges that no one could have predicted. This project has had to blend art, technology and engineering to create a strong, robust structure that reflects the beauty of a traditional Maori carving.

Find out more about the challenges that Kilwell have had to overcome during the project

Page reviewed: 31 Jan 2020 3:15pm