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Whakatū Nelson’s largest mural set to wow


A new mural, depicting Nelson’s aquatic wildlife across its impressive 420m2 span, has brought an unexpected splash of beauty to the Nelson Waste Recovery Centre.

A blank 60m x 7m concrete wall proved the perfect canvas for artists Sean Duffell, Thijs de Koning and Chris Zesk (pictured above L to R), whose work highlights some of the native creatures found in in our waters.

The mural, the largest in Whakatū Nelson to date, is funded by a portion of Nelson City Council’s yearly arts budget and Council’s Solid Waste closed account, which is self-funded through sources such as landfill waste levies, and not directly funded from rates.

The total cost of the mural is $30,000, which covers all artist fees, including travel costs, materials, design, delivery of work on-site (including undercoating and graffiti-guard coating), health and safety assessment and controls, environmental protection controls and insurance.

Duffell is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s top mural artists, and along with collaborators de Koning and Zesk, won the tender from a pool of more than twenty submissions.

The mural, as yet untitled, was installed over a five-day period during the Easter break by the three artists.

Duffell says wai ora, the water of life, connects all living things and is the backdrop that binds the mural together.

“Our mural took inspiration from the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary and the design is influenced by the flow and colours taken from the Maitahi awa.

“Looking after the hauora/health of our whenua/land, awa/rivers and te moana/oceans are important elements in the visual story playing out across the mural which features tuna/long fin eel, īnanga/whitebait, kōkopu, kōura/crayfish as well as titiwai/glowworms glittering at either end of the wall.

“A reminder of the fragile ecosystem that’s right on our back doorstep and the wider message playing out across this mural: becoming more aware of our footprint as human beings.”

Community and Recreation Chair, Tim Skinner, says Council always receives positive feedback when it transforms drab, unused spaces.

“We are all creatures of our environment, so inspiring public art like this has the power to lift spirits and help people feel Whakatū Nelson is a place worth living in and visiting.

“This mural is a fantastic example of what we are trying to achieve with the new arts strategy. It’s brought life to an otherwise grey area, and has an important message about the impact our own actions can have on our natural environment.”

Infrastructure Chair Brian McGurk says that this is an example of a great collaboration across Council.

“What better place for a visual reminder of the responsibility we all have to keep our beautiful Maitahi awa full of life. We can talk about these important things wherever possible, but sometimes a picture can do the job a thousand times more effectively.

“Responsible waste disposal and management, and recycling where we can, helps improve air and water quality.”

Registrations of interest closed on 19 November 2021 in a tender process for this mural, which requested submitters have previous experience of working on similar projects, with experience delivering large-scale, painted murals preferred. The winning design was chosen by a panel comprised of Council staff, members of the public and an iwi representative.

Note: Watch a time-lapse video of the mural creation below. A high-res version of the video and a selection of high-res images available on request.

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