A staunch anti-Hundert-wasser councillor says she would rather "stick hot pins in her eyes" than attend the earthturning celebration of the museum's first stage.

The first stage is not the building itself but a 5m-high folly construction dubbed Te Kakano - The Seed, occupying the grassed oval across the service lane from the old Harbour Board Building.

Te Kakano makes up $300,000 of the Hundert-wasser Art Centre with Wairau Maori Art Gallery's $16.25 million cost.

The folly is necessary for local craftspeople to master the techniques required ahead of the centre's build.

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Whangarei district councillor Tricia Cutforth has opposed the HAC throughout her term and opened fire on it upon receiving a VIP invitation to Thursday's sod-turning ceremony.

"I doubt very much the majority of Whangarei people had any idea that building a folly was part of the Hundertwasser deal, buried as it was in the bowels of the project's paperwork. Another example of 'the devil's in the detail' with this project," she said.

"I won't be attending this clod turning. I'd rather stay home and stick hot pins in my eyes."

Ms Cutforth said the folly would take up the majority of the green space at one end of the Town Basin.

She also questioned whether the trusts involved - Prosper Northland and Whangarei Art Museum - would have enough to underwrite any shortfall from the museum as they had promised, and said future generations would be left to pick up the cost.

HAC project team leader Andrew Garratt said the footprint of green space taken up by Te Kakano would be offset "many times over" by the publicly accessible tree-clad and grassed roof on the main art centre.

Te Kakano would contain seating and be a publicly accessible space.

He described his project team as "wonderful volunteers ranging from their 30s to their 90s".

"Some volunteers are putting 40-plus hours a week into this project," Mr Garratt said.

"One of the underlying motives for a lot of our volunteers is that of securing a better future for the kids."

He said Prosper Northland Trust had come up with the idea of an underwrite and was working to secure it.