26 Jun 2014

Mayor sad at Hundertwasser outcome

3:57 pm on 26 June 2014

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai says she could have done more to sell the benefits of a Hundertwasser building for the city.

The district council on Wednesday voted to abandon the $13 million project which it had supported for the past 10 years.

A model of the proposed arts centre.

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

The quirky colourful building offered originally by the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in Northland, would have been the only one of its kind outside Vienna featuring his works and Maori art.

But community opinion has always been divided over its merits.

Councillors voted 8 to 6 against the project, with most saying they were reflecting the view of a majority of ratepayers who oppose it. More than 100 people packed into the council chamber for the two-hour debate and vote.

Ms Mai said on Thursday that has always supported the project and in retrospect could have tried harder to convince the doubters, but she was also trying to be fair and impartial.

She said she is sad and disappointed that her council has rejected an extraordinary gift, and that is the legacy she'll have to live with.

Foundation withdraws offer

The Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna has formally withdrawn its offer of the arts centre.

The foundation's New Zealand agent, Richard Smart, said on Thursday it is disappointed in what it called the council's unprofessional behaviour and disrespect shown to the work and memory of Hundertwasser.

He said the foundation was tired of the arguments, dithering and political grandstanding over the project.

Mr Smart said the Hundertwasser gift had become a political football for private battles of certain disgruntled councillors who indulged their egos instead of doing what was best for Whangarei.