Total Colour Award winners

painting the town… tartan


The Highway Highlander has been part of the heritage of Waipu for around three decades and was badly in need of an overhaul. It is the first connection to the lovely Scottish inspired town of Waipu.

Waipu is steeped in Celtic history dating back to the first settlers in the 1850s with five shiploads of around 800 people settling into Waipu. Today the population is nearer 2000+.

Painting the town… tartan Waipu

Waipu is the first town in the world to have the Highland Games on January 1st each year. The town is very proud of their Scottish Heritage with events throughout July such as ‘Art n Tartan’, ‘Men in Kilts’ (Rugby), ‘Tarts in Tartan’ (Netball) and much more.

The Highway Highlander stands in a field on the left of Highway 1. The aim was to ensure drivers travelling at 100kph see him, using the ‘3 second rule’ to inform them of Waipu and the ‘Scottish Town – Welcome’.

The Highway Piper had been up for so long wearing the same old clothes, of green, blue, red and white and in poor condition, not something that represented the lovely town of Waipu. It was not a tartan of any significance and this needed to change. Cows loved to scratch their backs on him, which gradually wore away the paint and wood. He’s now fenced off to avoid future cow related damage.

Waipu sign

Waipu sign in progress

A group of local art ladies got permission to update the Highway Piper. The first stage was removing all four metres of him in five pieces. He was dismantled by a lift and transported to the main part of town and stored in the Celtic Barn.

He needed a fresh tartan using a well-known tartan and colour to stand out from the original colour which was green and white – uninspiring in a field. The Royal Stewart Tartan was chosen, one of the most well-known tartans around the world, and the colours have a bit of punch, including bright red, yellow, blue, black and white in the tartan alone with the black jacket. It is also the personal tartan of Queen Elizabeth 2 and can be worn by anyone who hasn’t a specific tartan of their own.

Painting the tartan

Painting the tartan

It needed to say ‘Welcome to Waipu’ and identify that the next turn off on the right would lead you to the well known and loved Scottish influenced town of Waipu.

He was water blasted, scrubbed, cleaned and sanded prior to painting. Each of the ladies were given a specific job/area to paint. This took over 120 hours of long silences (deep concentration) and huge bouts of deep belly laughter, all working very closely together. Over 20 of those hours were just painting the tartan free hand.

Painting the tartan - reds

Painting the tartan - reds

He now looks resplendent in Resene Torea Bay, Resene Bullseye, Resene Fuel Yellow, Resene Grapevine, Resene Quarter Black White, Resene Black and Resene Mercury Grey, all painted in Resene Lumbersider low sheen waterborne paint. For extra protection Resene Clearcoat UVS protective glaze has been applied over the colour to help them keep looking their best for even longer.

The result has been so well received by Northlanders and Waipu locals, with requests to extend the tartan on local Waipu toilets too, which now feature painted tartans on the toilet doors.

Client: Caledonian Society Waipu
Other key contributor – overseer/organiser: Megan Toole
Other key contributors: Lenore Potier, Maggie Wistrand, Pat Hadlee, Sue Welford, Lynne Stewart
Painting contractor: Arty Farty Art group
Photographer: Sue Welford
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2019

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