Whangārei's Camera Obscura project will go ahead after securing more than $450,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to get it across the line.

Photographer Diane Stoppard, who first had the idea for the Camera Obscura in 2011, is delighted to have secured the funding.

"It's absolutely fantastic. It's such a great thing for the city of Whangārei."

Stoppard got architect Felicity Christian and sculptor Trish Clarke on board in 2015 and the trio launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2016. Since then they have been seeking donations of money, labour and materials.


A Camera Obscura is the optical device that led to photography and consists of a room or box with a hole in one side. Light from outside passes through the hole and strikes the walls inside, where the external scene is reproduced upside down.

The sculpture will be built along the Hātea Loop and will reflect Te Matau a Pohe.

The total cost of the project is $991,000, with the final stage - construction - costing $892,292.

Donations towards the construction phase totalled $433,350, with the remaining $459,000 being contributed by the Provincial Growth Fund.

Stoppard said it had been a "massive team effort" and acknowledged the contractors, the designers, Creative Northland, the Whangārei District Council, Northland Inc, the support from local iwi, Te Tai Tokerau Deaf Society, the public and now the Provincial Growth Fund.

She said the council had "confirmed they will own it on behalf of the people of Whangārei and that they will manage and maintain it".

"It's going to be the largest sculptural obscura in the world, and the only [sculptural] one currently using CCTV technology."

The Camera Obscura will be built along the Hātea Loop and reflect Te Matau a Pohe. Photo / Supplied
The Camera Obscura will be built along the Hātea Loop and reflect Te Matau a Pohe. Photo / Supplied

The 8m wide by 8m tall sculpture will be disability friendly, and is primed for educational purposes.


Construction will start in October this year, and will be completed in May next year.

Stoppard said that, as part of the construction, the curved weathering steel will be craned onto a barge from Culham Engineering's Port Whangārei site, transported under Te Matau a Pohe and craned onto the site.

The provincial development unit's Northland senior regional official, Ben Dalton, said the Camera Obscura will add to the range of existing and planned attractions in the Whangārei Town Basin area and Hatea Loop walkway and "will be a catalyst to increase visitor numbers and advance the economic revitalisation of the area".

"Tourism is set to continue to grow in Whangarei and it's crucial that we invest to improve local infrastructure and encourage initiatives that cater to tourists. The more there is for tourists to experience while they're in Northland, the longer they will stay."