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Te-Ika-Akoranga - A Story about the Southern Cross Cable and a Mural 1962 - 2014

This is a story about the Southern Cross Cable and a public mural.

1962 Artist E. Mervyn Taylor completes a mural for the New Zealand Post Office. It is installed in the foyer of the COMPAC (Commonwealth Pacific) Cable Station in Northcote to mark the opening of the Tasman section of the undersea cable, which enters the country at Takapuna Beach.

The building is open to the public with a simple visitor book on hand for those entering the building.

Date Unknown  The Hauraki Gulf Cable Protection Zone is established in northeastern New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, protecting a large area of seabed from fishing and anchoring.

1982 The ANZCAN cable is laid as a replacement for the COMPAC cable.

1987 The New Zealand Post Office becomes a State Owned Enterprise, split into three units. Telecom New Zealand takes ownership of Cables.

1990 Telecom New Zealand is privatised: sold to Bell Atlantic and Ameritech. Entries trail off in the COMPAC landing station visitors book.

Date Unknown The cable station complex is secured.

1993 The PACRIM East cable is laid - linking Auckland and Hawaii.

1996 The Submarine Pipelines and Cables Protection Act comes into law.

1999 The Southern Cross Cable lands on Takapuna Beach. It runs to a Cable Station constructed next to the COMPAC Cable Station.

2002 The ANZCAN cable ceases operation.

2010 Wikileaks releases documents showing over 300 foreign sites that are critical to US national interests. The only two New Zealand sites on the list are the two landing sites of the Southern Cross Cable.

March 2013  JWT Advertising approaches Letting Space to make a series of work for private offices. Letting Space respond with a plan for commissioning three public artworks that traverse both public space and the private zone of JWT offices.

June 2013 Bronwyn Holloway-Smith proposes idea to examine the landing sites of the Southern Cross Cable through her Letting Space Commission, as well as to complete a PhD on the same topic.

Google Maps satellite view of COMPAC cable station (highlighted) located in the same high-security complex as the Southern Cross Cable station (next door).

August 2013 The artist and Letting Space visit North Shore, Auckland.

Including the now security-fenced perimeter of the cable station in Northcote.

January-March 2014 The artist hears that there is a ceramic mural on the inside of the cable station and requests permission to photograph. She is informed that it was removed due to damage and deterioration.

The artist locates a small colour photograph in NZ Archives.

April 2014 The artist enquires as to remnants of the mural and the Southern Cross Cable Station Manager locates a set of three cardboard boxes containing the tiles.

The shape of the work for the commission for Letting Space and JWT is confirmed and discussed with the E. Mervyn Taylor Estate and current assumed owners Telecom. An initial set of tiles travel to Massey University, Wellington.

Conservators at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa view a sample of tiles and advise on the best restoration approach. Restoration and digitisation commences.

May 2014. A fishing dragnet is purchased by the artist. The dragnet is a a nod to the Hauraki Gulf Cable Protection Area (the net is the kind used to catch snapper, the most popular of the fish species caught in the gulf) and, puns aside, makes reference to discussions of catch-all internet surveillance - a tactic that has been referred to as “dragnet surveillance”.

The first set of tiles are individually photographed, edited, printed in duplicate, and laminated. Negotiation is made to allow the artist to have the remaining tiles relocated to Wellington for restoration work.


The net is sent to Auckland to be hung tautly by Letting Space project coordinator Harry Silver in a large glass cabinet at JWT Auckland’s Imperial Lane Queen Street Offices.

June 2014 The mural unveiling process begins whereby the artist mails a parcel each week to Kirsten Brown at JWT Auckland.

It contains a group of reproductions of the tiles to be hung on the fishing net as per coordinates given. The second set are hung on a net in the artist’s temporary studio in Wellington.

Additional restoration assistance comes in the form of a team of volunteers who attend a working bee organised by the artist.

July 2014  The artist releases a first batch of tiles online, under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License allowing the public to share and adapt the tiles for any purpose, even commercially. Restoration work, photographing and posting of tiles to JWT continues.

August 2014 The artist gives a presentation and chairs a discussion panel at Massey University College of Creative Arts looking at copyright issues connected with the project. A second batch of tiles are released online, and the artist visits Te Papa with curator Megan Tamati-Quenell to view the painting by Taylor that the mural was based on. Restoration work, photographing and posting of tiles to JWT continues.

August 2014 Telecom NZ becomes SPARK, thereby removing any nominal ties to the original New Zealand Post Office.

September 2014 The artist continues to release batches. The picture is now almost complete.

15 September 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistle-blowing anti-surveillance advocate Edward Snowden take part via the internet in an event at the Auckland Town Hall titled the 'Moment of Truth'. Greenwald and Snowden present information about "Project Speargun", suggesting that New Zealanders are subject to mass internet surveillance under the GCSB with the full knowledge of Prime Minister John Key (leader of the National Party). The surveillance is said to take place via a tap on the Southern Cross Cable.
October 2014 The JWT commissioned component of the work is due to close with a presentation and  the reproduction of the complete mural online and in the JWT cabinet.   


For more information on this project including an interview with the artist go here.

To view the mural online go here.

To receive updates as this project continues join our mailing list here.



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