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Geraldton council votes to decomission “hated” Zephyr II art instead of repairing corrosion

The days of the almost universally “hated” Zephyr II art installation on Geraldton’s foreshore are numbered, with the council agreeing on Tuesday to decommission the controversial piece.

NSW-based sculptor and sound artist Dr Nigel Helyer was commissioned in 2007 to design the piece, with the project costing more than $160,000 by the time Zephyr II was installed in 2012.

According to Dr Helyer’s website, the artwork is supposed to produce “harmonic sounds” from in-built sounding pipes on a windy Geraldton day.

The sculpture was recently declared a public safety risk due to corrosion at the base of the pole, with repairs estimated to cost $20,000-30,000.

But City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the council would be “remiss” to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a “failed art piece”.

“It has long been derided, so much so it is probably, ironically, the only thing that brought everyone together on the Geraldton Noticeboard on Facebook,” he said.

“The idea that we spend money on something that everyone hates is lost on me.

“I think it needs to go. I don’t think the community sentiment is there to restore the Zephyr II to its lack of abundant glory.”

Corrosion has made the Zephyr II sculpture a safety risk.
Camera IconCorrosion has made the Zephyr II sculpture a safety risk. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

A Facebook post by Mr Van Styn asking for community feedback on the sculpture received more than 760 comments, with most agreeing the Zephyr II should be retired.

Cr Mike Reymond was the only person to vote against the motion, saying the sculpture was a Geraldton icon and “memorable” tourist attraction.

“It is a talking point in the town. It’s foolish, it doesn’t work but people refer to it,” he said.

“I have a strong problem with removing any public art and I think the $20,000-30,000 it might take to repair it and put it back is well worth the benefits that come from it.”

City chief executive Ross McKim said the sculpture had “tainted” community opinion against public art and the council was working hard to correct this.

“The Protective Memory figure outside (Geraldton Regional Art Gallery) and the Horizon sculpture have been well received, which is hopefully something we can repeat in the future,” he said.

As per the artist agreement, Dr Helyer will have an opportunity to buy the decommissioned sculpture.

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