Wednesday, 19 March 2014 - 1:23pm
Ohakune is famous for its giant carrot, but it was a sculpture of a different sort which occupied local police last month.
The stainless steel artwork Phoenix Rising, by award-winning sculptor Keith Simpson, was stolen from its place outside Epsom Library, Auckland, in 2004.
Last month a sharp-eyed Auckland resident who was a regular visitor to the library, called police after spotting the sculpture in a real estate agent's online photographs of a property for sale near Ohakune.
Inquiries were made to verify the sculpture's identity and a search warrant was prepared.
Constable Lane Demchy went to the property at Rangataua, about 5km from Ohakune, with a representative of the real estate company. In the rickety sleepout, up a ladder and through a manhole into the loft bedroom, they found the two-metre sculpture.
With the help of Highway Patrol officer Senior Constable John Ahern, Lane managed to lower the heavy artwork to ground level and transport it to Ohakune Police Station, where it is awaiting collection by its rightful owner, Auckland Council.
"It was one of the more unusual jobs," says Lane. "The owners of the property now live in Australia and inquiries are in hand to trace them."
After the theft of the sculpture, which was valued at $15,000 in 2004, Keith Simpson was commissioned to create a new, slightly larger, Phoenix Rising which remains securely in place at the library.
Auckland Council Library Service Delivery Manager Corrina Meikle says work is in hand to return the sculpture to Auckland. "It was quite a surprise to hear of it being found. We're looking forward to getting the artwork back and we're thinking about where we might put it."