Whangarei's most successful businessman has made a "generous" contribution to the building of the Hundertwasser Art Museum and has formed a working group to help volunteers with their fundraising.
Philanthropist and jeweller Sir Michael Hill kicked off a month of Hundertwasser-related events in Whangarei throughout June with a "generous amount of money" towards the HAC, though project action team leader Andrew Garratt said the exact amount could not be revealed.
Sir Michael had also formed a working group with former Waitakere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey and former Beca and Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Ron Carter to assist HAC in obtaining philanthropic funds.
Sir Michael started his first store in Whangarei in 1979 and his family is rooted here. He described the Hundertwasser project as having "international significance" and congratulated the volunteers behind it.
"Tourists will flock to Whangarei to see this unique building with its amazing collections of Maori art and Hundertwasser's unique art works. His connection to Northland and New Zealand makes the project especially important," he said.
Mr Garratt said Sir Michael's pledge led the way for "a month of giving". Project backers were encouraging people to dig deep this month, with one year to go until the June 2017 funding deadline, stipulated in last year's binding referendum.
Sir Michael's company's pledge helps bring the HAC closer to the $16.25m needed to complete the building. The HAC project now has $10.3m in donations.
"It is wonderful to have the likes of such well-respected New Zealanders on board with us," Mr Garratt said.
Mr Hill's support of art and culture dates back to childhood, Mr Garratt said. The entrepreneur began as a musician and watch-maker before directing his creativity into jewellery.
Michael Hill Jeweller now has 314 stores in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US, and aims to operate 1000 stores by 2022.