Download The Wellington App for more stories like this.

Water Whirler broken by swinger

The kinetic Len Lye sculpture Water Whirler, close to returning to action on the waterfront after more than a year of repairs, was broken yesterday by a man who climbed and swung on it.

Screengrab from Facebook video by Sarik Eng.

The man in his 20s was filmed climbing and swinging on the iconic sculpture before the base of the “wind wand” snapped, plunging both into the harbour. The incident was posted to Facebook by Sarik Eng.

A Wellington city council spokesperson said the man had been injured and taken to hospital. The area has been cordoned off.

Water Whirler, constructed from an original design by the late New Zealand artist Len Lye who spent a lot of time in Wellington, cost more than $1 million to install in 2006.

The wand of the sculpture is operated by motors in the base, spraying water in choreographed patterns from jets in ten-minute cycles.

It can only operate in winds of less than 20 knots, which meant that it was frequently turned off in Wellington’s blustery weather. It has had ongoing technical problems.

However with $200,000 commissioned in 2009 to fix the sculpture, restoration work was due to be finished this month.

Wellington Sculpture Trust chair Sue Elliott told Stuff that the trust was a “hair’s breadth” away from getting Water Whirler running again.

For over a year they’d been working to solve complicated issues with the sculpture’s motor, she said, with an an entirely new system made for the sculpture.

“This has set us back for months… it will need a whole new pole by the look of it now.”

Mayor Justin Lester told RNZ that it was too soon to say how much the sculpture would cost to fix, but the council would try and get it fixed.

Despite posting “You break it, you buy it” on his Twitter account, he told RNZ this morning that he expected the repair costs to be covered by the council’s insurance.