Last Hundertwasser building gets government cash

Acclaimed artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser died in 2000 but his last building will be constructed in Whangarei.

The on/off Hundertwasser Art Centre planned for Whangarei got a giant boost yesterday when the government offered $4 million to help build it as part of a new Northland economic development plan.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce yesterday announced the gift among 58 initiatives at a meeting of Northland business and political leaders.

The government gift is conditional on the Whangarei Museum Trust raising a further $6 million.

The building will be based on a design the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser sketched in 1993 to alter the white cube shaped 1929-built Northland Regional Council-owned former harbour board building. At the time, the council said it had no plans to vacate the building, so the proposal lapsed. The building has been largely empty for some years.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was one of the best-known European artists of the 20th century. He lived for some years in the Whangarei district and died in 2000. His unusual and widely admired curved and green architectural designs throughout Europe and Japan have attracted large tourist numbers. In New Zealand, he is known for his designs of the Kawakawa toilets and a New Zealand flag.

In February 2008, the Hundertwasser Foundation gave its support for the remodelling of the harbour board offices in keeping with Mr Hundertwasser’s design – giving its permission for the world’s last authentic Hundertwasser building to be constructed at the Town Basin.

Whangarei District Council took up the plan again in recent years as part of a major remodelling of its Town Basin and planned to spend more than $12 million with an expectation that the museum would return more than $4 million a year.

After several years of argument and consultation with ratepayers, the council backed away from the project but local businesspeople were determined to try to go ahead anyway, forming the Prosper Northland Trust. The registered charity raising funds for the project is the Whangarei Museum Trust, which also runsoperate the Whangarei Art Museum.

Meanwhile, Mr Joyce also announced initiatives focused on tourism, improving farmland productivity and infrastructure, such as transport, including upgrades of three of the 10 one-way bridges National promised to refurbish during the Northland by-election last year.

Northland MP, NZ First leader Winston Peters said the funding for the Hundertwasser Art Centre was about $2.5 million less than hoped but was welcome.

Want to listen to the day's hottest stories, plus interviews and panel discussions? Stream NBR Radio's latest free 40-minute podcast from iHeartRadioTunein, or iTunes.