A number of New Zealand country towns have erected large sculptures on the roadside into town. The eye catching sculptures are there to indicate the town’s main industry or activity. Some are attractive. Some are ugly. Lonely Planet described one as a “spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad”.


Located 90 minutes north of Wellington, the tiny town of Bulls thrives on bullish puns. Along with the slogan, “A town like no udder”, there are other cringe making signs around the town. Outside the police station a sign says “Const-a-Bull”, the Anglican Church has “Forgive-a-Bull”, the town hall has “Soci-a-bull” and the medical centre has “Cure-a-Bull”.

The town was named after James Bull, the town’s founder and to ram home the “bull” stuff, the town’s inhabitants have funded a large wooden bull. Named James, the roadside erection stands outside the medical centre. It is hoped this wooden James will help make a visit to Bulls unforget-a-bull!!


The most famous of all the nation’s town installations, and a New Zealand icon, is found at the entrance to the North Island town of Ohakune (pronounced oh-a-kune -e)

The town came into existence in the 1860s as a camp for workers who were building the North Island main trunk railway. When this work was completed, farmers arrived and soon discovered the fertile soil was ideal for vegetable growing. The first market garden was established in the area in 1925 with carrots being the main crop. Today, the town is known as ‘New Zealand’s Carrot Capital’.  To confirm this claim, the world’s largest artificial carrot was placed on the side of the road in 1984 and has become an instantly recognizable symbol of the town.

‘The  Big Carrot’ as it is unimaginatively called, started life as a prop for a television commercial but when it was no longer required, the producers donated it to Ohakune. On its 280 kilometre journey from Wellington, thousands of onlookers lined the road as the seven and a half metre tall structure passed through the various towns along the way.


With a population of just over 1000, Ohakune should be a sleepy, rural New Zealand town. However, because of its location at the base of Mt. Ruapehu, it attracts thousands of skiers who travel from Wellington and Auckland to ski the two ski fields on the mountain. Visitors know they have arrived in Ohakune when they see the famous “Big Carrot”.  Like other roadside erections across New Zealand, many travelers stop to have their photo taken standing beside it.


The prosperous Central Otago town of Cromwell is often called ‘The Fruit Bowl of the South”. As a homage to the numerous orchards in the area, a well known plastic sculpture has been erected on the side of the road at the entrance to the town. Lonely Planet described it as a “spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad”.

Erected in 1990, the installation features an apple, pear, nectarine and apricot. The apple is the largest of the four fruits being 20 feet tall and 18 feet across. The highest point of the sculpture rises 26 feet above the ground. Like the other roadside erections I’m covering here, the Cromwell Fruit installation has become a town icon and is popular as a background for selfies. A recent repaint of the 4 fruit cost $30,000. That’s how much the locals appreciate their fruit sculpture and want to keep it looking its best for those visiting the town.


The Southland town of Gore has erected a giant trout at the northern entrance to the town. Although lacking the colour found in other New Zealand roadside erections, the locals have developed a fondness for their oversized fiberglass fish which has been frozen in the air above a pile of stones since 1989.

Gore is split into two sections by the Mataura River. Flowing for 190km (120 miles) this river is famous for the brown trout that anglers from many parts of Australasia flock to catch. These fish can weigh as much as 20kg (44lbs). Prized by fishermen in Europe since the 17th century, brown trout are amongst the world’s most valued game fish.

With a population of 12,000 living in the area, Gore is one of the larger New Zealand rural service centres and hosts the annual Gold Guitar Awards. For the last 42 years, this country music festival has been held in the town with over 700 singers from around the world taking part in the 3 day competition held each June. To acknowledge being “New Zealand’s Capital of Country Music”, Gore has erected an impressive installation to celebrate it. It is one of the more imaginatively designed roadside installations anywhere.

Giant Guitar in Gore


Riverton is known as ‘Southland’s Riviera’ and has gone one step further than any other New Zealand town with four roadside sculptures to turn the eye. A huge four metre high paua (abalone) shell has been assembled on the side of the main road into the town to illustrate its reliance on its fishing industry.

Giant Paua Shell

This paua shell sculpture once featured on a New Zealand postal stamp as a New Zealand town icon, making it unique amongst all public art pieces.

“Pahi” is another roadside art structure in Riverton. Designed by a local artist, the attractive erection is made of steel to represent the sails of the ships that brought the first settlers to the area. It is arguably the most artistically designed of all New Zealand roadside erections and my personal favourite.

Pahi by Kere Menzies

Just outside Riverton at the popular surfing beach of Colac Bay, surfing is celebrated with the country’s largest seaside sculpture. The impressive work of art features a surfer riding a blue wave and is a major attraction for photographers to the area.

It seems the folk in this part of the country are fascinated by public displays. To pay homage to the arrival of Captain Howell who set up a whaling station at Riverton in 1836, yet another roadside sculpture has been constructed. The large stone whale is positioned beside another town beach. It’s a little more modest than the other sculptures around the country, but it is popular with kids who love to clamber over its smooth surface as part of their day at the beach.


Rising 7m (20ft) the L&P bottle erected in 1967 in the Waikato town of Paeroa, (pronounced pie-row -a) is a true New Zealand icon erected to promote the town. It was originally meant to represent a rocket, but since the town has a natural spring that was used to make soft drinks, it was decided to promote the biggest selling drink, Lemon and Paeroa (L&P for short) so the rocket became the bottle. It has stood on its present site since 2002 and is another roadside erection frequently used as a background for selfies.

A popular TV ad screened a few decades ago,featured locals presenting places in Paeroa that weren’t famous, such as an old house, an op shop and the town hall. However, when they stood in front of the large bottle and pointed at it, they said “but it is famous!”  From this ad came the well known slogan “Famous in New Zealand” referring to the drink L&P and by extension, the L&P bottle installation. L&P is now manufactured in Auckland and is the best known soft drink in New Zealand and is also sold in Australia and Britain.


On the 1st April 2006, Te Kuiti staged the largest sheep show in the world when 2000 sheep were on display. Located in the centre of the North Island, close to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Te Kuiti holds the annual New Zealand Shearing Championships and markets itself as the “Shearing capital of the World” so it’s no surprise to find homage to sheep around the town.  David Fagan, the world’s top shearer with 10 world records,  actually lives in the town. To maintain its position as a “sheep town” the annual Great New Zealand Muster takes place there every autumn.

Positioned in the town’s main street, the 7metre high Shearer statue is the largest of its kind in the world and is one of the most dramatic outdoor “information installations” in the country.


In the 1980s, rural New Zealand was facing a worrying downturn with small towns losing their citizens to the cities. When Taihape’s (pronounced ti-happy) population dipped to around 1800, the residents of the town got together to do something. When popular comedian John Clarke, playing his farmer persona, Fred Dagg, mentioned Taihape in his hit parody on New Zealand farmers, “The Gumboot Song”, the Taihape folks took the opportunity to brand their town “The Gumboot Capital of the World”.

The first Gumboot Day was held at Gumboot Park on the 9th April 1985 and consisted of gumboot throwing, gumboot races, Fred Dagg look-alikes and decorated gumboots, all designed to sell the town to the rest of New Zealand.

To make sure Taihape remained in the national consciousness as “The Gumboot Capital of the World”, it was decided a giant gumboot was needed to be permanently on display in the most visible location. New Zealand artist, Jeff Thomson was noted for his work in corrugated iron and when he was approached to design a dramatic gumboot, he quickly accepted the assignment. In August 2000, the Taihape icon was placed in position on the side of State Highway #1 and ever since, it has become one of the more unusual of all New Zealand roadside erections.


The Waikato town of Otorohanga is promoted as the “Kiwiana Town” and unsurprisingly, is noted for its world famous kiwi house. This was the first place in the world where the public could see this New Zealand national bird in captivity. Nearby is one of the country’s best collection of native birds.

To back up Otorohanga’s ‘Kiwiana’ the town enthusiastically celebrates New Zealand’s popular culture by offering everything from the kiwi bird, buzzy bee, (both toys) Paua (shell) and Pavlova (cake) to heroes such as climber Sir Edmond Hillary, racing car driver Bruce McLaren, rugby player Colin Meads and the All Blacks.  Shearing, sheep dog trials and No. 8 wire are also included, along with the Maori haka (welcome/challenge dance) and hangi (bar-b-que).

The roadside installations I’ve presented in this blog, are the best known around the country but there are many others. Te Puke has a giant Kiwifruit slice, Taupo gaudily displays a giant bicycle and a big prawn. There is a large red apple in Waitomo. A few miles away, Manaia, “New Zealand’s Bread Capital”, has a large loaf of bread erected on the side of the road. There’s a big sausage on top of a fork in Tuatapere, a large sandfly in Pukekura, and a thick, pink doughnut in Springfield. At this point, I have to ask why kiwis can’t just be happy with the astounding scenery that surrounds them rather than having to create artistically questionable roadside erections everywhere.


Finally, let me take you to the tiny town of Tirau which has gone one better than all the other towns in the nation by erecting two corrugated iron buildings side by side. One is shaped as a giant dog, the other is a giant sheep. Just to make it more eye catching, “The Corrugated Iron Capital of New Zealand” with a population of just 800, also boasts an iron shepherd standing outside the town’s local church. Oh, I forgot to mention the corrugated iron chicken above the Turau Country Store, the corrugated iron teddy bear above a toy shop, the corrugated iron cow above the dairy, the yellow corrugated iron car above the service station, the row of corrugated iron ducks along the sidewalk, the blue goose in red high heels and the colourful Tirau School Bus.

Tirau has certainly embraced roadside erections and as a result, this otherwise forgettable town would be just a blip for drivers travelling through but it has now become a destination in itself thanks to the corrugated iron creations that bring smiles to the face of every visitor.

If you found this blog interesting, please let me know in the comments below.

Ceidirk Heward

Speak Your Mind