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Community help readies Giant Koala sculpture for Autumn parade

Saturday, 1 Apr

The Giant Koala sculpture that will be a highlight of this year’s Armidale Autumn Parade is now almost complete and ready for its debut – thanks to many individuals and businesses in the local community.

The ‘Renew Armidale – Giant Koala and Threats –  Community Art Sculpture’, to give it its full name, has been under construction for the last 6–7 weeks under the supervision of English effigy artist, Neil Turner – and he’s delighted with the progress and the generosity of the community in assisting with the project.

‘It’s progressing really well,’ Mr Turner said, ‘and we’re now in the final stage where we just need to cover the base with paper, weatherproof the sculpture, mount the large head and install brakes. We’ve been at it since early in February and had lots of help from people who turn up at different times – Maurice Anker, for example, has been here most days.

‘A couple of weeks ago there seemed a lot to do, but we’ve had help from a range of people who’ve assisted with tools and materials, such as Armidale Building Supplies and furniture restorer Allan Golding, who also helped to secure a loan of scaffolding from Hubbard Hire. We’ve had expertise from people like John Lemon of JML Environmental Consultants, and the plywood frames that form the sculpture were generously cut by Brian Miller using a CNC machine that made it easier and more precise.

‘The biggest problem we have is that we have to lift the Koala head off to get outside the shed as it is too tall. However, besides using his shed, Peter Ducat has made available an excavator we can use as a lifter.’

‘Moving the Koala also takes some work, and we need marshals to help us move it in the street. The Armidale Police have been really helpful and the Armidale Regional Council has kept everything on track.

The Koala will be animated, with light and sound, but it will also be pulled through the street by people and this brought some challenges. For example a special braking system was required, and this was designed by Armidale Live President Gordon Cope.

A project of Renew Armidale, the sculpture provides a simple but dramatic representation in which a larger-than-life koala is struggling against threats such as feral dogs, bushfires, chainsaws and bulldozers all at once.

After the Autumn Parade, the sculpture will be a feature of the interactive stalls in Civic Park, organised by Sustainable Living Armidale and supporting the Northern Tablelands Koala Partnership Project. The sculpture will later spend time as an art feature in the Mall, showcasing Armidale’s vibrant arts skills and attracting visitors while helping both kids and adults grasp the plight of the koala and other native animals.

Photo: It takes a community! Pictured with the almost complete Koala sculpture are (from left) Maurice Anker, Greg Auert, Kel Hughes, Liz Ellis and Allan Golding. Peter Ducat is driving the excavator and effigy artist Neil Turner is taking the photo  

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