Council votes no to Hundertwasser

By Mike Dinsdale -
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An artist's impression of the proposed Hundertwasser Arts Centre that has now been dropped.
An artist's impression of the proposed Hundertwasser Arts Centre that has now been dropped.

Whangarei's controversial Hundertwasser Arts Centre project is dead in the water after councillors today voted to drop the plan.

More than 100 members of the public packed into the public gallery in the Forum North council chambers for today's meeting, with many having to stand in the chamber behind the council table.

After plenty of debate, and passionate speeches from councillors on both sides of the argument, they voted 8-6 to not continue with HAC.

At the start of the HAC agenda item at today's meeting Councillor Phil Halse moved that the information on HAC be received; that the council remove the project from its 2012-2022 Long Term Plan and that all previous council decisions regarding HAC be rescinded.

When it was put to the vote after more than two hours of debate, Councillors Halse, Stu Bell, Shelley Deeming, Susie Bretherton, Brian McLachlan, Greg Martin, Sue Glen and Tricia Cutforth voted for the motion, while Crs Sharon Morgan, John Williamson, Cherry Hermon, Crichton Christie, Greg Innes and Mayor Sheryl Mai voted against.

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The vote has put an end to the project after it was first put forward in 1993, then resurrected in 2008 by then mayor Stan Semenoff.

The council proposed spending up to $13 million on building HAC at the old Northland Harbour Board Building at the Town Basin, with up to $8 million from ratepayers.

An economic feasibility of the proposal by consultants Deloitte claims it will attract between 143,000 and 160,000 paying visits annually.

The $5 million non-ratepayer funding has already been pledged.

A comprehensive telephone survey carried out by the council found 53 per cent of respondents opposed HAC, 28 per cent of respondents supported it and 19 per cent were either not sure or not leaning either way.

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