You'd be hard pressed to think of any other toilet which celebrates its 20th birthday with cake, speeches, a string trio and throngs of admirers.

However, you'd also struggle to name another loo which has had such an impact on its community — or become as iconic — as Kawakawa's Hundertwasser toilets.

Kawakawa Primary School kids chuckle as they are called on to sing 'Happy Birthday' to a whare paku. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kawakawa Primary School kids chuckle as they are called on to sing 'Happy Birthday' to a whare paku. Photo / Peter de Graaf

When the Austrian-born artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, with the help of local schoolchildren and dozens of volunteers, transformed the town's run-down 1960s toilet block into a functional work of art, Kawakawa was a depressed backwater lined by empty shops.

These days it's a bustling service and tourist town with a revamped vintage railway, a cycle trail, an innovative community hub/visitors' centre nearing completion, and some of the fastest rising property prices in Northland.

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About 100 people gathered in Kawakawa Hundertwasser Memorial Park to celebrate the toilets' birthday. Photo / Peter de Graaf
About 100 people gathered in Kawakawa Hundertwasser Memorial Park to celebrate the toilets' birthday. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The railway has played a part in Kawakawa's revival but the opening of the toilets in 1999 was the game-changer.

Their contribution to the town was celebrated with a 20th birthday party last week with about 100 people gathering in the park behind the loos.

Kawakawa Hundertwasser Memorial Park Trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd said the event was a celebration of changes in the town since the toilet opened.

Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd with the toilets' Hundertwasser-themed 20th birthday cake. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd with the toilets' Hundertwasser-themed 20th birthday cake. Photo / Peter de Graaf

''It's reinvigorated the town. Kawakawa had lost its way and it gave the town impetus to move forward. It shows that by joining together, and working together, you can achieve many things.''

Shepherd also re-read the speech Hundertwasser gave her to read in 1999 in which the artist spoke of how small things, such as a toilet, can have a huge effect.

Kawakawa Primary's Jacquelyn Marsh, 13, leads the school kapa haka group. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kawakawa Primary's Jacquelyn Marsh, 13, leads the school kapa haka group. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Children from Kawakawa Primary School performed waiata and even sang Happy Birthday for the toilets. They were coached by Horrace Maunsell who was a schoolboy when he performed at the opening in 1999.

The party also boasted a Hundertwasser-themed cake and a string trio featuring the talented Martin siblings of Matawaia.

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The Martin siblings from Matawaia - from left, Xena, 23, Atawhai, 15, and Puroto, 14 - perform during the birthday celebration. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The Martin siblings from Matawaia - from left, Xena, 23, Atawhai, 15, and Puroto, 14 - perform during the birthday celebration. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The party was held next to Te Hononga, another Hundertwasser spinoff which is due to open in April next year.

As well as a public library, information centre, workshop and gallery, Te Hononga will house an interpretative centre documenting the links between Hundertwasser and his adopted home of Kawakawa.

Hundertwasser died in 2000, a few months after the toilets were completed.