In 27 days, Whangarei District councillors will vote on whether to go ahead with the controversial Hundertwasser Arts Centre.

But the decision may be taken out of their hands, with the Hundertwasser Foundation seriously considering pulling its support for the divisive project.

If the Austrian-based foundation decides to withdraw its support, there will be no chance of a Hundertwasser Arts Centre (HAC) ever being built in the city, the foundation's New Zealand spokesman Richard Smart told the Advocate.

Whangarei District Councillors yesterday voted to receive the results of a comprehensive telephone survey that found 28 per cent of respondents supported the project, with 53 per cent opposed and 19 per cent either not sure or not leaning either way.


Mayor Sheryl Mai said a final decision on whether to proceed with HAC or drop the project would be made at the next full council meeting on June 25.

Ms Mai said councillors would receive full information on the implications of proceeding or cancelling the project.

"At that meeting we will make a final decision," she said.

If the council voted to go ahead with HAC, it would not need to undergo a special consultative process as the project was in its long-term plan.

However, under the Local Government Act, if councillors ditch the plan, that would have to go through the special consultative process and call for submissions because it was in the long-term plan. The motion to receive the report was passed unanimously.

The council employed Versus Research - at a cost of $17,065 - to do a telephone survey of 1000 Whangarei residents to gauge support for HAC.

It proposes spending up to $13 million on building HAC, at the old 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 project already has $4.5 million of its $5 million target for non-ratepayer contributions.

There has been $2 million from corporate and private benefactors, $2 million from the Lottery Grants Board's Significant Project Fund in March and $500,000 from the board's WWI commemorations, environment and heritage committee. These external funds would have to be returned if the project does not go ahead.


Mr Smart said the foundation - which had given approval for the project and agreed to supply Hundertwasser artworks - had run out of patience and he felt the plan was being used "as a political football" with the procrastination "an insult to Hundertwasser's memory".

Austrian-born Hundertwasser died in 2000 and the council resurrected his plan for a building at the Town Basin in 2008, and Mr Smart said the lack of action was frustrating.

"The concern is that this has become a bit of a circus and the foundation feels the project is not being taken seriously. It's been used by some people as a political football," he said.

"It's a bit disrespectful to Hundertwasser's memory, for a start. If it's going to be passed back and forwards and another year of consultation etcetera, then it's quite likely the foundation will pull out." The foundation would await next month's meeting with interest and make its final decision after that.