A boat owned by Friedensreich Hundertwasser is on its way to the late Austrian artist's property on an inlet near Kawakawa - but not everyone is happy about the move.

The 8.5m La Giudecca has spent the past decade on display at Kawakawa Railway Station, although it remained the property of the Vienna-based Hundertwasser Foundation.

On Tuesday it was lifted onto a boat hauler and taken to Ashby's Boatyard in Opua for repairs. It will later be taken to Hundertwasser's home, Kaurinui, in the Waikare Inlet.

The move came amid recriminations between two groups concerned with preserving Hundertwasser's legacy in Kawakawa.


Richard Smart, the Hundertwasser Foundation's New Zealand representative, said he was heartbroken to see how neglected the boat was. It would be restored and taken to Kaurinui, which he said would eventually be opened up to the public.

However, Kawakawa group the Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust had hoped to move the boat to a new park behind the town's famous Hundertwasser toilets. The trust is developing the park in tribute to the artist and his environmental values, but the foundation turned down the trust's request to shift it to the park.

Mr Smart said the boat had been entrusted to Kawakawa's vintage railway but it had suffered from a "lack of care and interest".

"I'm sure there were reasons, it's just disappointing it's got to this point. It's a missed opportunity for Kawakawa."

Johnson Davis, who chairs the vintage railway and is also a member of the Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust, said both groups felt the park was an appropriate place for the boat and were "deeply disappointed". It would have been placed on a mound with its bow pointing towards Kaurinui and used to promote the artist's environmental values.

He said the boat had been repainted but admitted more could have been done to maintain it. The railway had been waiting for certainty as to where the boat was going before investing more in its upkeep.

The boat came to the railway's attention when it was advertised for sale after Hundertwasser's death, Mr Davis said. The foundation allowed it to be displayed at the station as long as it was looked after.

Vintage railway operations manager Mike Bradshaw said it was "a great shame" the boat was leaving Kawakawa, especially as a site had been prepared in the new park.

Hundertwasser had been a strong supporter of the railway and had helped it get started by paying for carriage restoration.

Once the boat was at Kaurinui no one would see it because the property was not open to the public, Mr Bradshaw said.

Mr Smart said the boat was named after an island in Venice, where it was built, and narrow to help it negotiate the city's canals. That also allowed it to get through the mangroves near Hundertwasser's home. He took it out in the Bay of Islands and painted while on board.

"So it's got history," Mr Smart said.