Catholic neighbour calls religious decoration 'offensive'
A RELIGIOUS spat has broken out between two neighbours in rural Auckland after one erected a 6.4m statue of the Hindu god Shiva.
Ravin Chand told the Herald on Sunday that he installed the 30-tonne religious effigy so that he and his family could pray to it.
But neighbour Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was "bizarre" and "offensive".
"Religiously and culturally it's a bit insensitive to us and I can't believe they're able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it's part of a religion we don't agree with," he said.
"I don't see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way."
It took Chand more than a week to assemble the statue and he defended it saying it was part of Hindu culture. "It's just that the size is a bit bigger," he said.
Asked why he had mounted the giant deity, Chand said: "Do you need a reason to pray? I don't think so."
He would not reveal what the statue cost, saying only "it cost me an arm and a leg. I don't want to put a price on god", he said.
Chand said he commissioned the carving of the marble statue from a sculptor in China in June last year.
It arrived in New Zealand in April, and had been sitting in a container on his Clevedon property before being erected this week.
It was so large it had to be mounted on solid concrete foundations. Workmen with diggers were still working on the finishing touches last night.
Chand said the correct council consent and geo-technical inspections were completed beforehand. But Watts said he was not informed about the proposed statue, and said it was "bizarre" it could be erected without any consultation with neighbouring properties.
"They've let it go ahead to be built without consulting us, and we're probably the most affected here because everywhere we go on our property it's kind of there."
Watts said he had complained to Chand but there was little else he could do because the Auckland Council had already consented to it being built.
"I've been to the council and asked about it and evidently it was within their rights to do it and it doesn't need a permit, even though it's a 6.4m-high concrete statue.
"It's 10m from our boundary which is within the rules where you can build a building. It's like, 'bad luck, if you don't like it, it's your problem'. I find it really hard to believe in this day and age that this can happen."
Chand said Watts had phoned his wife - but was the only person to complain. "Everybody else who has gone past has stopped and admired it," he said.
"[Watts] compared it with 'me putting up a [Nazi] swastika next door to you'. I said, 'Well if you want to put it up, feel free to put it up. Nobody can stop you from doing that, it's your property.'
"I'm not bothered. I haven't got time for people like that."
Chand added there were many churches in the area, but no one complained about them.
"I think it's just because it's something different, that's why [Watts is complaining]. People aren't used to it," he said.
A private ceremony celebrating the statue was being held today. More than 200 people are expected and Chand has invited his neighbours - including the Watts.