A $4 million grant from Central Government is the "seal of approval" Hundertwasser backers have been waiting for.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced the grant towards the construction of the Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Maori Art Gallery (HAC) at the launch of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan in Kerikeri today.

Last week, HAC backers announced they had pledges or funding for about 39 per cent - $6.3 million - of the $16.25 million required to build the centre. The $4 million from Central Government takes the centre well over the halfway mark.

The trusts behind the centre, Prosper Northland and Whangarei Art Museum, need to raise the $16.25 million by June 2017 for the controversial Town Basin centre to proceed. The Government contribution is contingent on the total amount being raised.


Prosper Northland Trust chairman Barry Trass said the $10 million now raised put the total figure well within reach.

"It is the seal of approval we have been waiting for. There are other potential funders out there who have been waiting for this announcement before committing to the project and we hope they now have confidence they are backing a winner," he said.

Mr Joyce said the centre was expected to generate up to $3.7 million for Northland each year. Seventy people would be required to build it and 30 permanent staff would be needed to run it.

Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson said the move would inspire confidence in the project, which he saw as a catalyst for hotel development, and an antidote to Whangarei's highly-seasonal visitor market.

He said today's announcement would bring an "immediate change in perception of Whangarei".

"The HAC will be a major influence on the future of Northland's visitor industry and the government's announcement today will give the people of Whangarei and Northland greater confidence to know the visitor industry in the region is continuing to flourish," Mr Wilson said.

"The great thing is that the HAC will change Whangarei from being a 'quick-visit' or 'pass-through' destination for most international visitors, to a 'must-see' riverside city with an iconic cultural attraction of international significance."

A June 2015 referendum of Whangarei residents brought a final decision on whether or not the centre should go ahead - a debate which had plagued the town for more than 22 years.

More than 27,000 people voted in the referendum, with 14,256 giving Hundertwasser the tick of approval.