Building has started on Kawakawa's long awaited Māori culture and Hundertwasser-inspired community hub.

The rammed-earth building complex will include a library, information centre, art gallery, workshops and public toilets built around an ātea, or town square, linked to the main road, Gillies St.

The main build is scheduled to begin in late September but on Wednesday members of Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust, local artists and earth builders who will work on the job laid the first foundation.

They built a wall, traditionally called a sirewall in an earth building. That first wall is a symbol of the integrity of the vision of a community and a commitment to keep it honest and keep it local.


It will be revealed next Wednesday at a public ceremony, at 4.30pm.

Chairwoman of the trust, Noma Shepherd, was there for the whole day and helped pour and ram mud and concrete during the build.

''It's been really exciting,'' she said. ''We've had a wonderful day.''

Part of Shepherd's thrill over putting something on the ground to signal the start of building - and also provide practice in the method - was reliving the days she worked alongside her friend Friedensreich Hundertwasser on the public toilets he built for the town.

Shepherd said for her and many other campaigners for the community hub currently called Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Te Hononga, its start ''has been a long time coming''.

She was a founder member of the charitable trust set up in 2007 but which only last year got the kind of backing from local authorities and the Government that would get the ambitious proposal over the line.

Since then the original plan's scope has expanded.

Shepherd is philosophical about the years behind the Partnership Group which includes the trust, Far North District and Northland Regional councils, Far North Holdings, Ngāti Hine and the Kawakawa Business Association.

The project needed a sound business case and last year everything came together, she said.


The Far North council and the trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in August.

Then in March this year the trust received $2.3 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). That grant would have been impossible without the project being connected to the council.

Other funding toward the estimated $5.5m build has come through community fundraising, Foundation North and Lotteries ($500,000 each) and Northland Regional Council ($500,000 from its Investment and Growth Reserve).

Funds from Far North District Council — not yet signed off in the Long Term Plan process — include at least $230,000, plus the land. The council will be the key tenant of the building, and Far North Holdings the owner/operator.

❏ Read more about the Kawakawa project in Saturday's 48 Hours section.