Maintenance of Cromwell’s often controversial big fruit sculpture got the big tick at last week’s long term plan sign-off that finalised a $100,000 spend to do it up.

It is yet to be determined when this will happen will carry out the work.

When asked about progress last week, Central Otago District Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs said no contractor had been appointed because the LTP had just been signed off (at the council meeting on Wednesday June 30).

“Some months have passed since the quote was received so we will certainly review it and retest the market before we make any commitment. We hope to be in a position to enter a contract for mid-summer.”

At the meeting, final sign off was given for the Cromwell Community Board to clean, paint and lacquer the fading fruit, which will cost double the $50,000 originally allocated for the maintenance.

It was reported at the community board meeting in June that the council had received a quote for $94,500 to do the job.

Council parks officer Marie Gordon stated in her report there were a limited number of contractors to choose from and the company that had carried out the last lot of maintenance work five years ago was no longer operating.

The council had approached four contractors, who declined to provide a proposal. Eventually, a coating specialist, who was working on another council project, agreed to supply the quote.

The big jump in allocation caused consternation and divided opinions among the board members, some who were against the move and concerned at the cost, and others who were resigned to “swallow hard” and grant the extra funding.

It was hoped that lacquering the sculpture would mean less maintenance in the future.

As a comparison, the Gore District Council budgeted $16,000 every second year to lacquer its trout sculpture, and $2000 every other year to wash it down. This approach required a 10-yearly investment of $88,000 by the Gore District Council.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan mentioned the big fruit in his mayor’s report at last week’s council meeting, and suggested it was a cautionary tale.

“While it’s a lot of money, the decision is one I totally support, given the choice was fairly simple. The board could either do nothing and let the fruit fade and decay at the entrance to the town, or it could pay the price asked by the one firm willing to do it.

“What this is, however, is a salutary lesson to those who want to build things with no mind to how the maintenance of those things is going to be undertaken by those that follow; something all of us in this room need to keep in mind when making decisions on big projects.”

Designed by the late Otto Muller, the fruit sculpture was erected by the Rotary Club of Cromwell in 1989 and handed over to the local authority in 1990.

A letter to the editor from Nigel Wilson, of Clyde in this week’s issue of The News makes reference to the council “being taken for a ride” because of the cost of the scaffolding, which was believed to make up a significant proportion of the cost.