The gumboot of goodness

Graham Hoete ‘Mr G’ with his Million Dollar Gumboot. Photo: Sharnae Hope.

It is more than just a gumboot. It symbolises New Zealand’s history of farming and our ‘get stuck in’ attitude.

But for Graeme Hoete, better known as Mr G, the iconic gumboot represents much more than that.

The Papamoa-based artist has created a gumboot piece called Kauri Kamuputu aka the Million Dollar Gumboot, which is expected to raise $1 million towards Mike King’s mental health group I Am Hope and the Gumboot Up campaign.

The Million Dollar Gumboot is made from Kauri wood and is hand carved with koru patterns as well as Mr G’s signature.

Mr G says the plan was to auction off the Million Dollar Gumboot, but it has transformed into a public event where every contribution counts.

“I’ve had mad love from Kiwis all over, basically just saying that they’re not millionaires but they do want to donate and contribute to the cause,” he says.

“We are looking at doing up a page where people can contribute a dollar upwards to the cause, and I reckon we will get it to $1 million when we open it up to the public.”

The Million Dollar gumboot is a product of years of people asking Mr G to sign their gumboot.

“I’ve signed letter boxes, skateboards and walkers, but for some reason the gumboot kind of just took off. I’ve easily signed more than 500.”

He says from there, he always had plans to do something “big and bold” around the gumboot, but never thought it would grow this big.

“I was just chipping away at this gumboot and then I heard about Mike King’s campaign. Because I’m connected to that cause in a personal way, I thought I’d place a value on my story and a value on my art and my journey and put it out there.

In the past, Mr G has been public about his struggles with mental health, and has used his talents to bring hope to people who are going through what he has gone through. He has also supported many Kiwis and organisations who do work in the suicide prevention/mental health spheres.

"Five years ago I went through a suicidal point in my own life, so my passion and heart towards this is real,” he says.

“If I can help as many people as I can with my art that would be great.”

If $1 million is raised for the cause, he says he has plans to celebrate what would be a huge feat.

“Through this project, Kiwis are creating a symbol of hope, and I’d love to celebrate that by painting a three-storey high version of the gumboot somewhere in Tauranga with the word hope above it, to kind of put the cherry on the top of this wild journey.”

The Million Dollar Gumboot will say at Tauranga Art Gallery for another week before being sent to a mysterious location.

“We’re hoping it’s going to another place that I can’t really disclose now, but it’s really cool,” he says.