A curious creature to spark joy in Palmerston North’s CBD

Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust chairperson Simon Barnett and Mayor Grant Smith pose with Whaiwhakaaoroaro, the deep thinker.


Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust chairperson Simon Barnett and Mayor Grant Smith pose with Whaiwhakaaoroaro, the deep thinker.

A curious creature now watches over the city’s traffic, waiting to be discovered by Palmerston North’s art lovers.

A 2.5 metre high bronze gnome weighing in at 700 kilograms was unveiled at the intersection of Palmerston North’s Broadway Ave and The Square by Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust on Sunday.

It’s the eleventh piece the trust has installed since its inception in 2006.

The artwork was meant to be unveiled on April 6, but the Covid-19 pandemic kept Whaiwhakaaoroaro, the deep thinker, in quarantine for a few more months.

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Mayor Grant Smith said the sculpture was unveiled at the perfect time to lift people’s spirits as the nation recovered from lockdown.

“Despite the threat of Covid, these sculptural artworks combined with the other public murals, carvings, paintings, banners, photographs and installations add to the transformation and the vitality of our city centre.

“It will provoke a different sort of reaction from the public.”

The gnome will gaze out across the streetscape, contemplating passersby, just as they will contemplate him, Auckland Artist Gregor Kregar said.

“This bronze gnome stands as a thoughtful guardian of his surroundings. A hero of the wise philosophers of everyday life. The monumental figure is both ridiculous and sublime.”

A piwakawaka, fantail, perches on his right shoulder, while a curious pepeketua, a New Zealand frog, sits on his hand behind his back, a reference to the city’s conservation efforts.

Whaiwhakaaoroaro, Palmerston North's 11th public sculpture, is unveiled.


Whaiwhakaaoroaro, Palmerston North’s 11th public sculpture, is unveiled.

The trust’s chairperson, Simon Barnett, was tight-lipped about the price of the piece, but said the addition of the sculpture was the perfect piece to engage people at the street level.

The travelling sculpture will be placed in different spots about the city.

Wiremu Te Awe Awe said a karakia, blessing the sculpture before its official unveiling.

He thought it was fitting that Whaiwhakaaoroaro would watch over Te Marae of Hine, the Courtyard of the Daughter of Peace, before travelling about the city.

The sculpture’s creator is an award-winning artist with a career spanning more than two decades. He has exhibited in Australasia and Europe.

Previous works in the series are: Numbers, on Coleman Mall; Returning Column, on the Main St roundabout; Cityscape, at the library; United Divided, near the Convention Centre; Who’s Afraid, outside the Regent; Body Language, under the civic administration building; The Giants Amongst Us, on Cuba St; the Ghost Tower and Nga Huruhuru Rangatira (the huia feathers) in The Square; and Te Pūatatangi ki Te Ika a Māui (Dawn Chorus on the Fish of Māui) at Wildbase Recovery in the Esplanade.