Opening of Whangarei’s Camera Obscura welcomed

Published: Nov 20, 2020

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  • Media release

The Provincial Development Unit (PDU) welcomes the opening of the Camera Obscura interactive sculpture in Whangarei today.

A large outdoor sculpture that features a copper and silver panels. The silver panels have highly detailed patterns cut out of them.

The Camera Obscura interactive sculpture in Whangarei.

"I am pleased to see the Camera Obscura sculpture come to fruition, with such a significant level of support from the local community. The PDU is proud to have played a part in the sculpture which will make a lasting contribution to Whangarei’s tourism and education landscape," says Robert Pigou, Head of the PDU.

The government has invested $459,000 in the Camera Obscura sculpture to enable the project to go ahead.

The full cost of the sculpture was $991,000 and Mr Pigou says there has been huge community support in Northland to raise the rest of the funding required.

"The Camera Obscura has had more than 500 supporters, with over 50 per cent of the total project cost donated by the local community," says Mr Pigou.

"A group of 32 local construction companies were involved in the build, with many donating 100 per cent of their labour and materials. Around 100 people worked on various stages of its construction," he says.

The project has involved building an eight-metre spiral steel sculpture, which houses a Camera Obscura room within it. The ancient Camera Obscura technique, which dates back to the 5th Century BC, uses a small hole in an external wall to project an upside down image of the surrounding location onto the internal walls and ceiling.

"The sculpture, situated on Pohe Island, will add to the range of existing and planned attractions being created as part of the Hatea Loop Walkway located at the Whangarei Town Basin. It will be a catalyst to increase visitor numbers and advance the economic revitalisation of an area that has been largely under-developed," says Mr Pigou.

"It is crucial that we invest to improve local infrastructure and encourage initiatives that cater to domestic tourists, who are very important to our tourism industry due to COVID-19. The more there is for visitors to experience while they are in Northland, the longer they will stay. This is great for the local economy.

"Additionally the Camera Obscura will create a teaching destination for all schools nationwide to study the optical phenomenon created by the sculpture which showcases the science of light," he says.

Other cultural attractions on the Hatea Loop walkway include the Hundertwasser Art Centre and the Wairau Māori Art Gallery, the Hihiaua Cultural Centre and the Rolling Ball Clock, which have all received funding administered by the PDU. The PDU also manages government funding for the Pohe Island Bike Park and new Rugby Union building, which are part of the area’s revitalisation. 

"All of these projects around the Hatea Loop and Pohe Island link to the Town Basin and are helping to create a vibrant social, cultural and recreational centre.

"The Camera Obscura project has really connected with the people of Whangarei and has brought out the spirit of the community. It will be an attraction accessible to everyone for generations to come," says Mr Pigou.