7 Mar 2014

Mayor thrilled by Hundertwasser grant

1:56 pm on 7 March 2014

Whangarei's mayor hopes a grant of $2 million towards the controversial Hundertwasser Art Centre project will convince doubters that it will be good for the city.

The $13 million art centre would be partially devoted to the work of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, whose only public work in New Zealand is the popular Hundertwasser toilet in Kawakawa.

A model of the proposed arts centre.

A model of the proposed arts centre. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne announced the grant on Thursday, in a list of grants from the board's Significant Projects Fund.

It comes just two months after the Ministry of Culture and Heritage refused to contribute, saying there was a risk the centre could lose $500,000 a year.

Mayor Sheryl Mai, who supports the centre, says it now depends on whether the last $1 million needed for it can be raised, and whether the majority of councillors and the community can be convinced of its merits.

Only last week there was an attempt by some councillors to scuttle the project.

Phil Halse speaking on Hundertwasser debate.

Phil Halse speaking on Hundertwasser debate. Photo: RNZ

The council has agreed to survey the public on the centre and has also been waiting for the outcome of several other grant applications, some of which have been turned down.

Whangarei arts patron Ian Reeves says the grant is a vote of confidence in the city.

Mr Reeves's law firm has pledged $25,000 towards the project.

He says it's encouraging to see the Government, through the Lottery board, backing private citizens who have faith in the art centre plan.

Mr Dunne also announced a grant of $5.75 million on Thursday for the building of a new national museum at Waitangi.