Whangarei Art Museum backs Hundertwasser future

Posted: 14/05/15

Whangarei Art Museum Trust strongly supports the Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre as the best option for future use of the former NRC building in Whangarei’s Town Basin. The Trust intends to work with Prosper Northland Trust to raise the required funds if the upcoming binding public referendum results in the Hundertwasser project being chosen as the preferred option.

WAM_logo_bwThe recent Deloitte report on the project reinforces the compelling arguments for Whangarei Art Museum’s involvement.

“The report is an update of the earlier feasibility study” says Whangarei Art Museum Trust chair Grant Faber “and it confirms what we’ve always understood; the project is low-risk, financially very viable and an extremely good fit with the objectives of the Whangarei Art Museum.”

“We’re confident in confirming our commitment to partnering with Prosper Northland Trust (PNT) to manage the art centre, should Whangarei vote for Hundertwasser in the upcoming public referendum.”

“Clearly Deloitte have found the PNT proposal stacks up operationally and financially. We agree with the Peer Reviewer about the need for a robust marketing strategy; further research may see the visitor numbers and entry fee ratios alter, but with 150,000 visits forecast and only 95,000 needed to break even, we’re very confident there is plenty of buffer for healthy revenue.”

WAMT oversees the operation of the existing Whangarei Art Museum (WAM), the entity responsible for the care and management of Whangarei’s extensive publically owned art collection.

Under their Trust deed, WAM is required to support, stimulate and enhance the artistic and cultural life of the Whangarei district, as well as seeking participation in the arts and encourage visitors.

More broadly, they are tasked with ‘fostering an awareness of art’ and have responsibilities towards arts education, ideas sharing and expertise.

“There is no other single project that offers a better opportunity to succeed under the objectives set out in WAM’s Trust deed. The HWMAC allows us to better manage resources and share costs across a much bigger revenue pool.

“The Wairau Maori Art Gallery is a unique opportunity to showcase the very best of contemporary Maori art, both from our own collection and from private and public collections across the country.

The significant increase in visitors to the Town Basin is of enormous value to the existing Whangarei Art Musuem and to all artists who exhibit and sell in Whangarei.

“The positive national and world-wide recognition Hundertwasser will bring helps us further our goals to show the world that Whangarei and Northland nurtures a healthy and growing creative sector. It will strengthen our existing international relationships, which are already strong and growing.

Hundertwasser art centre revenue ensures WAM can achieve all their future goals at no extra expense to Whangarei ratepayers and potentially make the entire operation self-funding in the future. The valuable existing WAM collection is owned by the people of Whangarei, is steadily growing (mostly via valuable bequests) and will soon require larger facilities.

History of Hundertwasser project and WAMT

Whangarei Art Museum Trust (WAMT) has a long involvement with the controversial project. In 2012 the Trust was asked by the last sitting Council to be the fund-raising entity for the WDC-led Hundertwasser Art Centre proposal, and employed it’s reputation with funders and it’s charitable status to reach the $5m fundraising target.

“The project was an ideal fit with Whangarei Art Museum and we were the right organisation to assist with both the fundraising and the eventual management of the project.”

During the 18 month fundraising period a new Council was elected and sentiment swung against the project, resulting in a vote to abandon the concept entirely; despite $5m being raised, the project’s inclusion in the WDC Long Term Plan and a signed agreement with the Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation in Vienna.

Soon after that vote a group of Whangarei residents, who went on to form Prosper Northland Trust,

approached WAMT. “They wanted to know if WAMT would still be part of the project, if the community picked it up, reworked the funding model and established a new relationship with the Foundation in Vienna” says Faber.

“Council had made it clear they did not wish to pursue the project themselves, but that in no way precluded us continuing to consider it. The benefits to WAMT remained the same and while WAMT is 80% WDC-funded, it is a separate legal entity, operating independently under it’s own very clear Trust deed.“ In September 2014 the Whangarei District Council’s 20/20 Committee called for ideas for the future of the Town Basin building formerly earmarked for the HAC.

Prosper Northland Trust submitted a re-worked Hundertwasser proposal and their Hundertwasser

Wairau Maori Art Centre project went on to gain the highest score against the Committee’s evaluation matrix. Council then decided to go to public referendum, pitching the new Hundertwasser project against the second-place Harbourside and the third option of demolition.

“Shortly before that decision, our Board became aware WAM had been also been included in the Harbourside project” recalls Faber. “The project backers had not contacted our Board, so we sought to meet with them to get a clear idea of what their proposal offered Whangarei Art Museum.

It was immediately apparent that the current WAM collection and galleries would not physically fit within the Harbourside floor-plan and soon after that WAM was dropped from their proposal.

WAMT continued discussions with Prosper Northland Trust, but made it clear their final involvement would be contingent on the findings of the Deloitte review. Now the PNT project has been independently scrutinised WAMT are able to confirm their intention to be both the fund-raising partner and the operational organisation for the Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre.

The binding public referendum that will decide the fate of the building is being held by postal ballot during May / June 2015. For more referendum information visit www.wdc.govt.nz/referendum.

From information supplied by Whangarei Art Museum Trust.