Nelson's gateway sculptures


The Novella Sculpture

“Nau mai ki tōku Āhuru Mōwai” – Welcome to my safe home, to my sheltered haven.   He wāhi e tau ana te wairua pai, e marino ana, e kore e taea e te kino.

Novella sculpture daytime 20dec12 010 A547949

The Novella Sculpture. Nelson City Council

This sculpture, created and erected in 2012, is sited on Miyazu Park, near the corner of Atawhai Drive and Queen Elizabeth II Drive, adjacent to the Trafalgar Cycleway.

The artist, Juan Jose Novella is an internationally recognised Spanish artist and sculptor. He says that the idea of shelter is very present in the work and alludes to Nelson's relationship with the sea. Novella has a great interest in light and shadow which he has explored in earlier works. The intricate cut out design creates a delicate looking shell, even though the carbon steel is 25mm thick and offers and alternate view of the world beyond, through its network.

The curved shape draws inspiration from marine plant formations and reflects the shape of the Haven and Boulder Bank - welcoming people to Nelson.  It is orientated east/west and as the sun moves overhead, fascinating shadows are cast, every moving like the tide that ebbs and flows and fish that dance in the shallows. 

Novella sculpture.

The Novella Sculpture at night. Nelson City Council

Te Tahuna a Tama (The Boulder Bank)
The sculpture also has a relationship with the Boulder Bank, which sits directly opposite the sculpture. The significance of Te Tahuna a Tama  to tangata whenua is the subject of many purakau (stories). For generations Te Tahuna a Tama was central to the area, which was a rich source of food. Manaka Motu (Haulashore Island), part of Tahuna a Tama at the time, provided a strategic place for tangata whenua to camp.

Legends tell of Rakaihautu arriving at Nelson Haven (probably around 800 AD) and Kupe legends also describe dramatic events in the waters of eastern Tasman Bay.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Nelson Boulder Bank was visited by Māori the early archaic (or "moa hunter") era and inhabited from the early 1200's. Boulders from the Boulder Bank have since been used as hammer stones in many of the pakohe quarries scattered across the Nelson mineral Belt and on D'Urville Island. Both the Glen and Cable Bay (Rotokura) /Delaware Inlet area have long been permanent or seasonal habitations and there are important pa sites, wahi tapu (sacred places) and burial grounds along that section of the Nelson coast.

Manawhenua iwi include Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa, Rangitane, Ngāti Tumatakokiri, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Rarua, Ngāti Tama and Te Ātiawa.

Dance to the Music of Time

Kanikani i nga kaupeka huriana - People and their lives are what make up our memories of time and history.


Dance to the Music of Time sculpture. Nelson City Council

This sculpture, installed November 2012, is located at Kinzett Terrace, near to the roundabout on Queen Elizabeth II Drive. The sculpture is a three faceted bronze which stands 5.5 metres tall. It represents the four seasons and references the bounty of the sea, the land and the people. It sits atop a plinth which reflects the shape and form of the Cathedral and Trafalgar Bridge which acts as landmarks linking sea to city

dance to the music of time

Close up views of ‘Dance to the Music of Time’ showing the three figures - a man stretches after a day of wine making, a woman bends with the weight of a kete full of fish on her shoulder and a woman picks fruit from amongst leaves. Nelson City Council

The artist, Terry Stringer, is a key figure in the history of art in New Zealand, and was awarded the national honour, Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in 2003 in recognition of his services to the arts. After training at Elam Art School he won many scholarships and awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Scholarship three times. His distinctive works grace many high profile sites in both New Zealand and overseas. This large bronze that marks Nelson’s gateway to the city centre gives a sense of the past and present people living in the Nelson landscape, referencing key industries for our region of horticulture, viticulture and aquaculture. 

The profile of a child is created in outline and faces in from the North looking at future opportunities. There is a suggestion of a giant sea bird facing Nelson in the overall shape of the sculpture, a watchful guardian over our city.


Located beside the Mahitahi, just below the QEII bridge, is an impressive weathering steel sculpture standing over nine metres tall and 1.7 metres wide. This is the Taurapa, or waka sternpost, created by Maia Hegglun and unveiled in February 2019.1


Taurapa Sculpture. Image Nelson City Council

The sculpture illustrates Māori/Polynesian exploration of the South Pacific Ocean and the discovery of Aotearoa. Mr Hegglun said at the time “The brief was to represent the topic of migration as it relates to all peoples.  Its story reminds us that the only way we have a future is through kotahitanga (strength in unity).  The choice of medium complements the cultural significance of the site, the historic contribution and evolution of Māori settlement and growth in Whakatū."2 Chair of Ngāti Kuia, Waihaere Mason, went on to say that “The Taurapa is an integral part of a waka. It connects the Tauihu (bow) to the Taurapa (stern) and has a balancing influence on the water.  Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui identifies this region and connects the Māori creation story and our history in Aotearoa.”3

Representatives from six mana whenua iwi showed their support of the taonga (artwork) through the laying of Mauri stones in November 2018 beneath the foundations of the sculpture. This customary ritual signifies the intrinsic relationship Māori have with the physical and spiritual realms as a source of protection for the environment and the community. 

An anchor stone made of locally sourced pakohe (argillite) has been placed beside the the Taurapa, and further connects the sculpture to the land and river. Hegglun, who as a builder has always been interested in working with steel because of its strength and the potential to be combined with stone, said "the Taurapa is going to outlive all of us; but the anchor stone will outlive the Taurapa."

2012. Updated January 2022

Sources used in this story

  1. Taurapa Sculpture 2019. Nelson City Council video:
  2. Taurapa Sculpture enhances culturally significant site (2019, February 5) Nelson City Council "OurNelson":<
  3. Ridout, A. (2019, February 2) Taurapa towers over the Maitai in tribute to human endeavour. Nelson Mail on Stuff:

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