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Arts centre 'not a done deal'

By Mike Dinsdale

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A decision to commit to the Hundertwasser Arts Centre is for the next Whangarei District Council to make and will not be a fait accompli, councillors have been told.

Whangarei councillors got an update on the controversial project at their monthly meeting yesterday.

The council was at pains to point out that the final decision on whether to go ahead with the $13 million project will be made by the council that comes in after October's local body elections.

The plan to turn the old Northland Regional Council building at the Town Basin into a Hundertwasser-inspired arts centre has divided voters since it was resurrected by former Mayor Stan Semenoff in 2008.

It had an initial price tag of $9.5 million.

Council chief executive Mark Simpson said councillors voted in March for the decision to be made by the next council and yesterday was an update outlining progress made and a timeline for the project.

Councillor Merv Williams wanted an assurance that the incoming council would not be left with a fait accompli - an irreversible act - and have to go ahead with the project because it was already too far down the track.

"When you look at the timeline [for the project, which has a finishing date of March 2016] it looks like it's going to be a fait accompli by the time the next council gets in," Mr Williams said.

But Mr Simpson said that would not happen and gave a "categorical undertaking" that the incoming council would be able to make the decision either way.

Council district living group manager Paul Dell said the timeline was subject to change.

Mr Dell said a final costing for the building was $13,000,240 plus GST, which was $600,000 below previous estimates.

The Whangarei Art Museum Trust has so far received more than $2 million of funding for the Hundertwasser centre from corporate and private benefactors and about $3.75 million of applications are also under consideration by the Lottery commission, ASB Community Trust and numerous other trusts.

Councillor Sharon Morgan, who is on the WAM trust, said letters seeking funding had also been sent to private philanthropists.

Ms Morgan said it was great to see that funding for the project was still coming in from corporate and private benefactors.

As part of the project, the council will build a Hundertwasser Landscape Folly to allow people to understand the construction philosophy and techniques used on the proposed building, should it be approved by the next council.

A folly relates to a structure constructed mainly for decorative purposes.

The location of the folly, which will cost about $150,000 and is included in the overall budget, has yet to be decided but it will be close to the centre and constructed before the building.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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