Whangarei public to be surveyed by telephone on Hundertwasser

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The unveiling of a model of the planned Hundertwasser building planned for the Whangarei Town Basin on the site of the old NRC headquarters. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
The unveiling of a model of the planned Hundertwasser building planned for the Whangarei Town Basin on the site of the old NRC headquarters. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

The public of Whangarei will be surveyed to find out if they want the controversial Hundertwasser Arts Centre to go ahead.

The Whangarei District Council today voted to conduct a telephone survey of residents with the results to then inform the council's future decision making on the divisive project.

Councillors also voted that no further council funding be committed to HAC until results of a community survey, with the wording of the telephone survey to be confirmed by a majority of councillors.

No date has been set for the telephone survey to start and councillors today spent almost one hour 45 minutes discussing the issue.

Councillors initially had a motion from eight councillors - Stu Bell, Susy Bretherton, Tricia Cutforth, Shelley Deeming, Sue Glen, Phil Halse, Greg Martin and Brian McLachlan - "That the Hundertwasser project not be included in this years (2014) annual plan and that staff be instructed to remove all reference to the Hundertwasser project in forthcoming workshops and annual plan drafts."

Cr Cherry Hermon then moved an amendment: "That council proceed with the Hundertwasser project to consent (stage) in line with our current commitments to the Long Term Plan and existing contractual obligations. That a telephone survey be conducted as part of a special consultative procedure with the public and government specifically related to the Hundertwasser Project. (And), wording of the survey from a professional company to be approved by council."

This motion was tied 7-7 with Mayor Sheryl Mai using her casting vote to vote against it, therefore allowing a further amendment from Cr Deeming that was eventually passed by all councillors apart from Cr Bretherton, who abstained.

The council has proposed spending up to $13 million on building a Hundertwasser Arts Centre (HAC) at the old Harbour Board Building at the Town Basin - with $8 million to come from the council - with claims it will attract up to 150,000 visitors a year. The Whangarei Art Museum Trust has so far received more than $2 million of funding for it.

The plan has been controversial since then Mayor Stan Semenoff resurrected it in 2008 after the council had turned down the idea in the early 1990s, prompting Hundertwasser to build the famous Kawakawa toilets instead. It had an initial price tag of $9.5 million when Mr Semenoff revived the idea and at that stage it was said no ratepayer money would be used to build it.

- Northern Advocate

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