Project history

These questions and answers are a work-in-progress. If you need more information on any topic, or can’t find the answer you need, please contact us here.

How the did the project start?

In 1993 Hundertwasser was invited by the then Mayor to select a building in Whangarei which would be suitable for one of his world famous architectural transformations. He said the former Northland Harbour Board building at the Town Basin would be ideal to turn into a work of art.

Hundertwasser made a number of visits to the Town Basin to study the building, and sketched his ideas to doctor the building’s architecture along the lines of previous projects which made works of art of incineration and heating plants, railway stations and warehouses in Europe and Japan.

The owners of the building at the time did not want to sell it to the WDC and the project lapsed.

The project was revived in 2008 after Whangarei District Council bought the building and Councillor Kahu Sutherland and chief executive Mark Simpson travelled to Vienna to win the support of the Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation.

The Foundation not only retrieved the artist’s original drawings and architectural concept from its archive, but also persuaded Heinz Springmann, an architect on many Hundertwasser projects, to produce plans for Whangarei District Council faithfully capturing the artist’s vision.

Why wasn't it built in the 1990's?

After Hundertwasser selected the former Northland Harbour Board building in 1993 as suitable for his “architecture doctoring”, the Whangarei District Council proposed that the building could become the District’s art gallery.

The building was occupied by the Northland Regional Council, which announced that it had no plans to vacate the building for at least the next seven years. As a result the proposal lapsed. The regional council sold the building to Whangarei District Council in 2004, and in 2007 the proposal was revived.

In February 2008 the Hundertwasser Foundation gave its support for the remodelling of the Harbour Board offices in keeping with Hundertwasser’s design – in other words, it gave its permission for the world’s last authentic Hundertwasser building to be constructed at the Town Basin.

Why was the project ditched by Council back in June 2014?

Despite the Hundertwasser Art Centre project being included in the District Long Term Plan (by the former sitting Council) and the $5m fund-raising target being met, at a June meeting of the WDC Councillors voted to drop all support for the project.

The make-up of the Council had changed in the 2013 local body elections and gone from narrowly supporting the project, to narrowly not supporting the project.

Councillors who voted against proceeding with the project cited a number of reasons but primarily the results of the telephone survey, the cost of the project to ratepayers.

The HAC project is still in the WDC Long Term Plan.

What happened at that infamous November 2014 meeting?

On 12 November 2014 the Whangarei District Council held an Extraordinary meeting to consider proposals put forward for the future use of the old Harbour Board/NRC building.

At the meeting, three motions were voted on:

  1. To exclude HWMAC from the process and go to referendum on Harbourside and demolition (failed 5-8).
  2. To proceed with both HWMAC and Harbourside (failed 5-8)
  3. To put HWMAC, Harbourside and demolition to referendum (passed, 11-1, 1 exemption)

The public gallery was full (60 people) and another 100+ people watched a live feed in the Forum North foyer. Many of those who that attended have expressed opinions about councillor behaviour and the meeting has been widely discussed in online forums and in the media.

The meeting agenda can be viewed here.

Can I watch the meeting anywhere?

Yes. Channel North taped the meeting and made all the footage available on YouTube.