$2m donated towards arts centre

By Mike Barrington

The planned Hundertwasser Art Centre at Whangarei has moved from being a "fragile venture" scorned by many ratepayers to a predicted tourist magnet for which corporate and private benefactors have already stumped up $2 million.

And a website launched in Whangarei yesterday - www.hundertwassernz.co.nz - seeks more public donations for construction of the art centre in the city's Town Basin.

The Whangarei District Council is to provide $8 million of the $13.7 million cost of converting the former Northland Harbour Board headquarters into Hundertwasser-inspired architecture which is expected to be an international tourist attraction.

The Whangarei Art Museum Trust is raising the balance of the money and trust chair councillor Sharon Morgan yesterday told a gathering of councillors, art centre officials and project supporters that $2 million had been pledged since fundraising started six months ago.

The largest corporate pledge was $250,000 and the biggest donation from a private individual was $75,000.

Ms Morgan later said Pub Charities had pledged $200,000 and the Sargood Family Trust had provided $150,000, but other donors had asked for their pledges to remain anonymous.

She said Auckland fundraising consultant Elizabeth Hauraki, who had a key role in obtaining finance for the development of the Auckland City Art Gallery, and the Hundertwasser project's Maori Advisory Panel had worked hard to get the project moving.

Maori Advisory Panel chair Elizabeth Ellis said the Hundertwasser project had appeared to be a "fragile venture" a year ago but it was now looking forward, not back.

She was eagerly anticipating the new centre showcasing the work of the best Maori artists in the world.

Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth said construction of the art centre was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for Whangarei to combine art, Maori culture and tourism in a mix that could earn the city a reputation as the Bilbao of the Pacific.

Bilbao, in Spain, has two of the best art galleries in the country, six themed museums, and an extensive cultural programme.

- Northern Advocate

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