10/22/2012 02:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Michael Parekowhai's Million Dollar Elephant Sculpture Called An 'Appalling Waste' Of Money (PHOTO)

Anyone who has delved into the squeal-inducing K-hole of the Internet's "unlikely animal friends" knows that a heartfelt encounter between disparate species is priceless. For New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai, however, an intimate moment between an elephant and a kuril water rat does have a price -- and that price is over a million dollars.

Parekowhai was recently commissioned by the Premier of Queensland’s Sculpture Commission selection committee to create a work that would be installed outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia. However, the $1.34M (NZ) five-meter bronze sculpture, entitled "The World Turns," is getting a less-than-warm welcome from the Queensland Minister for the Arts, Ros Bates, who called the work an "appalling waste'' of money, reports the New Zealand Herald. The Aussie politician told the publication that the price tag was a "shocking misuse of taxpayer dollars."

Although Bates was disappointed in the decision to invest in the piece, she realized it is too late to turn back. "Unfortunately, the advice I've received is there's no way I can reverse the decision at this late stage so Queenslanders must foot the bill,'' she told the NZ Herald. The bronze elephant already took a pricey trip from Auckland to Queensland, where installation costs added up to around $200,000. The work will be installed outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) on November 14.

Despite the controversy, many take pride in Parekowhai's message about the value of the kuril, the local water rat that has come to represent Queensland's indigenous community: "The Kuril is the real elephant in the room," explained Parekowhai to ABC Australia. "It is the Kuril who is the caretaker and who is responsible for upending this elephant with all its cultural and intellectual weight."

The Brisbane Times contains an enlightening recording of Bates' objections. We especially enjoyed the line: "It's this kind of reckless spending that drives Queensland into a spiral of debt." Well, when you put it like that...

What do you think, readers? Is a million dollars a fair investment for what could become a future icon? Or should the people of Northeast Australia have gotten their fix for cute animals like the rest of us, on the Internet?

michael parekowhai elephant sculpture