A small "folly" construction will be the first tangible step in the building of the Hundertwasser Art Centre (with Wairau Maori Art Gallery), kicking off a volunteer-run fundraising effort over the next two years.

Te Kakano (The Seed), an eight-metre-high pilot building designed so local craftspeople can master the techniques required for the project, is set to pop up at Whangarei's Town Basin by the end of this year near its mother ship - the old Northland Harbour Board building.

There has been a flurry of activity behind the scenes as the HAC project backer Prosper Northland Trust (PNT) sorts out its game plan after a June public referendum gave the previously persecuted enterprise the green light.

The trust needs to raise more than $12million by June 2017 - or risk the Whangarei District Council going back to the drawing board regarding the fate of the contentious building.

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The project's fundraising team leader Helen Whittaker said about $1.3million was already pledged - not including the council's $2.8million contribution to earthquake-strengthen the building.

The trust was approaching the Government and major funding bodies and would also rely on support from businesses, philanthropists and smaller-scale community crowd funding.

Interim project director Andrew Garratt said that despite the scale of the project, the trust resolved to make it entirely volunteer run.

Handing the process over to paid consultants was not an option, with about 30 volunteers expected to be actively involved at any one time, he said.

"Not only is there no budget for consultants, it simply doesn't fit with the community-led focus we've already had."

Mr Garratt said the build would likely be planned as funding became available, with the 700-day construction period starting as soon as the final amount was raised. If all went to plan the Hundertwasser Art Centre would be open four years from today.

Post-referendum, negativity that had plagued the Hundertwasser project seemed to have dissipated.

Mr Garratt said the process from now would be akin to building a business - the only difference being that no one would be paid.

The current control group was made up of representatives from the trust, Whangarei Art Museum Trust, Wairau Maori Art Gallery Board and the Vienna-based Hundertwasser Non-Profit Foundation.

The project has had various working titles throughout its 22-year history, the PNT settling on calling it the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Maori Art Gallery.