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Hundertwasser Arts Centre

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Hundertwasser Arts Centre

Artists impression of proposed Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre.

The Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Arts Centre is a proposed art and cultural centre in Whangarei, New Zealand. The project plans to convert the former Northland Harbour Board building in the Whangarei Town Basin into an arts centre based on a design by the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, with the support of the Hundertwasser Foundation.

The original design was mooted in 1993 when mayor of Whangarei invited Hundertwasser to design a new arts centre. The project has proved controversial and was considered and rejected a number of times until it was eventually approved by a binding referendum in June 2015.

The referendum result is subject to the project having secured capital funding by 30 June 2017.

History

In 1993 the Austrian artist-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed an art centre for Whangarei.[1] The building never eventuated and in May–June 2015 a referendum was held to determine whether to go ahead. Options presented were to build a Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre in the former Northland Harbour Board building, or a maritime museum, or to demolish the building. Prime Minister John Key supported the project and indicated he thought Tourism New Zealand should assist with funding (he is also tourism minister).[2]

A majority voted for the Hunterwasser proposal in the referendum, according to the preliminary result announced after voting closed on 5 June. The local Northern Advocate newspaper reported there were 13,726 votes for the Hunterwasser proposal, 7,876 votes to demolish the building, and 5,478 votes for a maritime museum.[3]

The council did not build an arts centre when it was first drawn because Hundertwasser selected a building owned by Northland Regional Council[4] who did not wish to sell it to the Whangarei District Council.[5]

Hundertwasser then went on to design the Hundertwasser Toilets for nearby Kawakawa which have become the major attraction for Kawakawa[6] and are credited with providing the impetus for Kawakawa's economic recovery.[7] After his death the Whangarei District Council revived plans to build the Hundertwasser Arts Centre and in 2012 signed a contract with Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation to build it and to display authentic Hundertwasser work and contermporary Maori artwork there.[8] The Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation acknowledge this as the last authentic Hundertwasser building provided it is built on the building he selected.

This project was costed, consented, agreed and included in the Long Term Council Plan. The cost to the council was to be $8 million including earthquake strengthening for the building.[4] 220,000 visitors a year were expected.[6] A feasibility study by Deloittes assessed the economic benefit to Northland as $3.5 million per year.[9] The Yes Whangarei campaign estimated the effective cost per household via rates to be $6.70 per year over 10 years.[10] This per-household cost excluded the earthquake strengthening on the assumption it would be required regardless.

The deputy Mayor, Phil Halse, said "Hundertwasser's legacy would put Whangarei on the map - not just in New Zealand but globally" [11] whereas in Wellington the Wellington Regional Strategy study (2005) noted that Wellington had missed an opportunity to do just that for Wellington by not choosing the Hundertwasser and Gehry proposal for Te Papa.[12]

The project was controversial, with concerns about ratepayer cost and some people not liking the appearance. In May the results of a phone survey commissioned by the council were released.[13] The survey only polled land lines provided by WDC, because mobile phone data was not available.[14] Only 78% of Whangarei households have landlines. In the weighted results 53% of residents opposed the HAC project whereas 28% supported it. The primary reason for opposing the project was cost with 81% saying "rate payer money should be spent on other priorities" or "Too expensive / waste of money".

The primacy of the cost concern was demonstrated by the question "What proportion of the construction costs would you be comfortable with Council contributing". 53% of respondents were comfortable with the council contributing 20% of the costs whereas only 28% were comfortable with the council paying 40% or more of the costs. Some criticism has been made of the survey. 41% of respondents said they knew little or nothing about the project and there is no reporting as to how people who knew about the project responded as opposed to those who didn't. The under-representation of people under 40 (only 95 people surveyed with only 30 of those saying they knew about the project) affects the reliability. Tony Collins concludes "so, really the only thing you can say with confidence from this research is that older people don’t support the Centre".[15]

In June 2014 Councillor Phil Halse moved a motion to remove the HAC from the Long Term plan citing procedural issues. This was narrowly passed leading to one national newspaper running the headline 'Whangarei kills reason to visit'.[16] Following the decision the council building council staff reported

""Feedback from the investment and development community has been that confidence was somewhat dampened by the Hundertwasser decision""[17]

Many commenters and some councillors [18] have stated the public voted against the Hundertwasser but there has not been a public vote on the issue (although there was a phone poll). The Yes Whangarei online petition has been signed by over 3000 people [19] (compared to 24,167 ratepayers who voted for the current councillors [20]) but not all petition signers are ratepayers and it cannot be considered a vote.

Several of the councillors who voted against the HAC had supported it in the past (including Phil Halse) or had not stated their position prior to the election (including Susy Bretherton [21]) so the council election cannot be considered to be a vote either. Phil Halse has been accused of changing his position due to 'petty politics and sour grapes' over not being appointed deputy mayor but claims his reasoning is all about process.[22] Whangarei voting numbers for local councillors are fairly small meaning that only one councillor (the mayor) was elected with more votes than the number of people who have signed the petition [23]

Following this vote the council asked for further proposals to make that location iconic. The four proposals selected for further consideration included a revised proposal[24] for the Hundertwasser Arts Centre (renamed Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre) by a newly formed trust called Prosper Northland. The proposal was backed up by a new feasibility study which affirmed the original Deloitte's study and said it was based on conservative figures.[25] One of the other proposals withdrew in support of the HWMAC proposal leaving a short-list of three. Under the new proposal Prosper Northland commit to finding all funding except for the earthquake strengthening. Whangarei District Council staff analysis states that "Overall staff considers the HWMAC proposal to be about economic development while on balance the other three are more about enhancing Sense of Place and telling our story".[26] A public meeting to present the HWMAC proposal was attended by over 1000 supporters [27]

Five councillors who voted against the more expensive HAC proposal moved to reject the HWMAC proposal. The motion was voted rejected at an extraordinary meeting of the Whangarei District Council on 12 November 2014 with only five councillors voting in favour. A counter motion by the major to proceed with the HMWAC proposal AND the Harbourside proposal with a goal to have both was also rejected. A final motion was passed that a binding referendum should be held in March. This was passed.[28]

The New Zealand Herald stated "Last week it was decided, reluctantly, to hold a referendum on the proposal. To scrap the plan would be a loss not just for those supporting it now but for generations to come. At present there is no reason whatsoever for visitors to stop in Whangarei. With the Hundertwasser Arts Centre, there would be"[29]

Phil Halse advised the Northern Advocate that the up-front cost would be $4.7 million.[30] This conflicts with council staff analysis that puts the 5 year cost at $2.8 million [26] and the figure stated by fellow anti-Hundertwasser councillor Trisha Cutforth in the council meeting [31] and was disputed in the same article by Barry Trass of Prosper Northland. In response to claims by Phil Halse that there would be additional costs and that the council would incur costs after the first 4 years Prosper Northland have formally advised the council they are able to extend the period for which they underwrite the Art Centre from 4 years to ten years.[32]

The referendum on 5 June returned a majority vote for the Hundertwasser building. The HWMAC received 51% of the vote, with the demolition option receiving 29% and 20% voting for the Harbourside option.[33] Some local media have called it a landslide victory.[34] Voter turnout was 49%,[35] which is comparable to voter turnout of 48% at the last local body election in Whangarei [36]

References

  1. ^ "The story of the Hundertwasser Art Centre". Yeswhangarei.co.nz. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  2. ^ "Edited to add: Here are our thoughts on... - Whangarei Loves Hundertwasser". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  3. ^ "Landslide victory for Hundertwasser Arts Centre". Northern Advocate (Whangarei). 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Poster for Festival" (PDF). Yeswhangarei.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  5. ^ "Photo of model of art centre" (JPG). Fndc.govt.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  6. ^ a b "Far North District Council - Hundertwasser Art Centre Model to Tour Far North". Fndc.govt.nz. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  7. ^ "There's something special about this little town': cultural identity and the legacy of Hundertwasser in Kawakawa, New Zealand". Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies (Tandfonline.com) 28. 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  8. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Whangarei District Council : Notice of Meeting" (PDF). Wdc.govt.nz. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ "Council to reveal Hundertwasser model on Thursday | Morning Report, 8:57 am on 25 May 2011 | Radio New Zealand". Radionz.co.nz. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  12. ^ "Wellington Regional Strategy : Selection of Focus Areas" (PDF). Wdc.govt.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  13. ^ "Supplementary Agenda No. 1 : 10. Hundertwasser Art Centre Survey" (PDF). Wdc.govt.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  14. ^ "Whangarei District Council : Notice of Meeting" (PDF). Wdc.govt.nz. 26 March 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  15. ^ Tony Collins (2014-06-06). "Observations on telephone survey HAC - Northland Chamber of Commerce". Northchamber.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  16. ^ Dave Armstrong (2014-06-30). "Whangarei kills reason to visit". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  17. ^ "Whangarei District Council : Finance Committee Meeting" (PDF). Wdc.govt.nz. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  18. ^ "A Word or Two From Your Councillor Susy Bretherton" (PDF). Hikurangi.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  19. ^ "Let's build the Hundertwasser Art Centre". Yeswhangarei.co.nz. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  20. ^ "Whangarei District Council - E1 Local Government". Localcouncils.govt.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  21. ^ Susy Bretherton. "Susy Bretherton". Susyb.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  22. ^ "Hundertwasser indecisiveness costs city $3 million | Checkpoint, 6:26 pm on 28 November 2014 | Radio New Zealand". Radionz.co.nz. 2014-11-28. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  23. ^ "2013 Election Results - Whangarei District Council". Wdc.govt.nz. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  24. ^ "Hundertwasser Wairaumaori Art Centre : Document 1" (PDF). Yeswhangarei.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  25. ^ "Supporting Documentation : Document 3" (PDF). Yeswhangarei.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  26. ^ a b "12 nov 2014-whangarei district council.pdf - Google Drive". Drive.google.com. 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  27. ^ "Big turnout at rally for Hundertwasser Centre | Morning Report, 8:30 am on 10 November 2014 | Radio New Zealand". Radionz.co.nz. 2014-11-10. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  28. ^ "Trust warns decision could kill Hundertwasser plan | Morning Report, 8:28 am on 13 November 2014 | Radio New Zealand". Radionz.co.nz. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  29. ^ "Paul Little: Key and his jokes not the villains - Politics - NZ Herald News". Nzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  30. ^ "Crunch time for proposed art project - Northern Advocate - Northern Advocate News". Nzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  31. ^ "Whangarei District Council Extraordinary Meeting P01". YouTube.com. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  32. ^ "Timeline Photos - Whangarei Loves Hundertwasser". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2015-06-06. 
  33. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/NewsRoom/Latest-News/Pages/Referendum-results-announced.aspx
  34. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=11460422
  35. ^ http://www.wdc.govt.nz/YourCouncil/Referendum/Documents/Harbour-Board-Building-Referendum-2015-Daily-Voting-Returns.pdf
  36. ^ http://www.lgnz.co.nz/home/nzs-local-government/elections/local-elections-2013/
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