Northland bird advocate Robert Webb will be celebrated in sculpture

Public bronze sculpture of birdman Robert Webb presented by Northland artists Dell Pryor and Susan Dinkelacker. Video / Provided

Robert and Robyn Webb’s life of volunteer work for the birds of the Northlands will soon be immortalized in bronze forever.

Titled Moment of Release, the work tells the story of how Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Center director Robert Webb returned Albert Ross the albatross to the wild in 2005.

“Robert’s life helping birds has changed the way many people across the country view our native birds,” the fundraising page notes.

Founders Robert and Robyn Webb have cared for and treated thousands of birds since August 1, 1992, when the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Center was established.

The project is a collaboration between portrait sculptor Dell Pryor and bird sculptor Susan Dinkelacker.

“This is by far the biggest job I’ve done and I’m really looking forward to getting started,” said Dinkelacker, who came up with the idea for the project.

Robert Webb, director of the Whangārei Bird Recovery Center, with artists Susan Dinkelacker and Dell Pryor.  Photo / Provided
Robert Webb, director of the Whangārei Bird Recovery Center, with artists Susan Dinkelacker and Dell Pryor. Photo / Provided

The bronze will be life-size and stand 2.2m tall and depict Robert Webb launching an albatross with a 3.2m wingspan.

“It’s also about seabirds, they’re threatened by climate change, fishing and everything else,” Dinkelacker said.

Both artists are experienced in creating bronze artwork and met when Pryor was teaching a sculpture course in Whangārei.

The sculpture’s design was refined over a two-year period with $5,740 already raised online, surpassing the $5,000 goal.

The $5,000 goal only covers 10% of the planned cost of the sculpture and the couple plan to seek additional funding from agencies like CreativeNZ.

The casting of the bronze at the foundry, the sculpting of the artists’ time, the engineering design for safety, the fabrication and installation of the pedestal total approximately $50,000.

Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Center director Robert Webb hands a sardine to his royal visitor - a southern royal albatross that landed exhausted near Dargaville in 2005. Photo/Tania Whyte
Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Center director Robert Webb hands a sardine to his royal visitor – a southern royal albatross that landed exhausted near Dargaville in 2005. Photo/Tania Whyte

“This bronze will last forever – as will his message of support for the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre,” said center director Robert Webb.

The sculpture is set to be installed in Tutukaka on public land, where Webb released the albatross after its recovery.

“The day we dropped, to think of something like that being put back into the wild is really special to me.

“It’s such a big and majestic bird…these albatrosses travel the world.”

A statement on the statue’s plaque will recognize Robyn Webb’s decades of dedication and hard work behind the scenes at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre.

“It’s not really about me, it’s about the center,” Webb said.

The artwork is expected to be unveiled in October 2023 and Tutukaka Marina has offered to maintain the artwork in the future.

You can follow the project on Facebook here.

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