The erection of the statue of ancient Spartan King Leonidas on Sparta Place in Brunswick has caused an uproar with some local traders in Brunswick.
The statue that was created in Greece by sculptor Petros Georgariou, is already on its way to Australia, and its unveiling will take place at the end of November.
The cities of Sparta, Greece and Moreland are sister cities and the placement of the statue is part of this relationship.
The street had been renamed Sparta Place back in 1987 to commemorate the beginning of the sister cities’ relationship.
In a report published in The Age last week local traders raised various concerns and objections regarding the statue.
One of them was the cost of the undertaking.
The City of Moreland is funding most of the cost at $20,000 with the prefecture of Laconia in Greece and the Pallaconian Brotherhood of Melbourne Victoria Leonidas, covering the rest of the cost including transportation and the construction of the statue’s base estimated at over $10,000.
The city, however, has already paid $60,000 for another artwork that is featured on Sparta Place.
The artwork is comprised of five different columns of steel construction about 4 metres high that finish off with a classical Greek column detail and include a myriad of pots and pans.
The artwork, named New Order, was commissioned to represent the historical past of Brunswick with its pronounced Greek presence while adjoining its urban present.
Traders also object to the fact that they were not engaged in a consultation process by the Council.
The Mayor of Moreland, Cr Lambros Tapinos, explained to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) that the traders had been informed despite the fact that the city was not obligated to do so.
“From the first moment that the two cities became sister cities it was always discussed and the idea of having a bust of King Leonidas was always on the agenda.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened sooner but certainly the Pallaconian community group has been waiting for this for over 20 years,” Cr Tapinos emphasised.
As for the current situation Cr Tapinos was categorical that the traders were aware of the City’s plans to erect the statue.
“It is a fact that for the selection of the other artwork that is displayed on Sparta Place they [traders] had a more active participation but that selection had not gone through a City Council meeting decision, which is something occurred with the statue of Leonidas,” Cr Tapinos clarified.
One of the traders who had taken part in the committee for the election of the New Order artwork was Mariana Hardwick who is opposing the erection of the King Leonidas statue.
But she stressed to NKEE that she had opposed the New Order artwork as well.
Mariana Hardwick who owns a well known wedding gown couture business prides herself as the person who was instrumental behind the recent revitalisation of Sparta Place.
“….[my objections] have nothing to do with the statue or whether it is Greek, or Italian, or Middle Eastern, it has to do with the fact that what we want in the precinct is more public amenities and what we keep getting is statues,” Mrs Hardwick said.
She insisted that the selection of the New Order artwork was not what she had asked for and rushed to add that what she would like to see happening in Sparta Place is some sort of a garden, vegetation or a water feature.
The Mayor of Moreland responded by saying that trees have already been planted in Sparta Place and that the lack of sunlight makes Sparta Place an inappropriate space for a garden. He also underscored that water features in “times of water restrictions are not the best message to send to the community.”
Another trader, Tamara Veltre said to NKEE that she does not oppose the erection of the King Leonidas statue on Sparta Place but merely believes that the spot that has been chosen will not do the statue any justice.
“I just want to make it clear that we have absolutely no objection to King Leonidas, he is a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds, but we’re objecting basically to the location which we think is ill considered and we’re objecting that there’s been lack of due process by the Council,” Mrs Vletre said.