Ngāti Hine kaumātua Waihoroi Shortland, Len Bristowe and Hirini Henare during the opening of Te Hononga. Photo / Tania Whyte
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and kuia Kene Martin cut the ribbon. Photo / Tania Whyte
Kaumātua Hirini Henare jokingly declares Ardern ''the Queen of New Zealand''. Photo / Tania Whyte
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Suzie Hati-Scott, Joanne Scott, Machaela Scott and Katie Mei Mahanga during a stop later in the day at Hati's Cafe in Moerewa. Photo / Tania Whyte
Prime Minister and Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern says the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser would have been proud of the building the Kawakawa community had created.
Ardern visited the Bay of Islands town last Friday to open Te Hononga, a Hundertwasser-inspired community hub which combines a public library, council service centre, public toilets and showers, art gallery, interpretative centre and workshop.
Expanded parking to take pressure off the town's clogged main street and an ātea, or town square, are also part of the project.
The ātea was created on the site of the old library and post office to link Te Hononga with the main street and give the town an outdoor gathering space.
Almost every part of the $6.4m project is a work of art, from the toilet floor mosaics to the coloured rammed earth walls, with 20 Northland artists involved.
Ardern said Hundertwasser — who had given Kawakawa ''arguably the most famous toilets in the world'' — would have been proud of the building for its joyfulness, rejection of straight lines, and generosity of spirit.
He also would have been proud of the community that created it, she said.
The opening drew the town's biggest crowd in many years with traffic backed up 1km beyond the Three Bridges and people jammed shoulder to shoulder on the ātea.
A long line-up of speakers included Hundertwasser Memorial Park Charitable Trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd, who thanked everyone involved in the project and paid tribute to the late Johnson Davis for his passion for all things Kawakawa.
Kaumātua Hirini Henare jokingly promoted Ardern to ''Queen to New Zealand'' while Richard Smart read a message from the Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna.
Ngāti Hine leader Waihoroi ''Wassi'' Shortland had the crowd in stitches and expressed his admiration for Hundertwasser's feat of ''taking an iconic Kiwi institution, the outhouse, and turning it into something that will stand forever''.
Shortland then gave the signal for the unveiling of a maatui (white tui) sculpture on the building's roof, while Ardern and kuia Kene Martin cut the ribbon.
During their tour of the hub some ministers were keen to use the new loos but the crowds following them everywhere were so huge they had to hold on.
Ardern later posted a photo to Instagram of the toilet mosaics, saying ''you'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive bathroom floor''.
Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene said Te Hononga, which translated as ''the coming together of peoples'', was a fusion of cultures.
''It's only 20 years from the bicentennial of the signing of Te Tiriti and I think our country is moving more and more towards the nation that was envisaged in 1840. Te Hononga is recognition of two peoples working together in the interests of everyone.''
The project's driving force, Lau'rell Pratt, said she was ''blown away'' by the end result and delighted to see the building being used.
''A lot of the art and magic happened in the last few months when it finally all came together,'' she said.
While Northland Regional Council support and $2.4m in Provincial Growth Fund cash got the hub across the line, it has always been a community project.
Planning started in earnest in 2008 for a visitors' centre and gallery honouring Hundertwasser, who made the town his home until his death in 2000.
The building's design and purpose changed over the years but made only slow progress until Pratt was hired as a facilitator and Ngāti Hine got on board, making it a genuinely community-wide effort.
Elements of the building are Hundertwasser-inspired but it is an original design by Pip Bolton of Kerikeri-based Avail Pacific.
One half is steel and glass, the other is rammed earth built by Northland specialists using a Canadian Sirewall technique. The main contractor was Whangārei firm Harnett Builders.
Other organisations that contributed include the Far North District Council and its commercial arm Far North Holdings, Lotteries and Foundation North.
Te Hononga was the name of a tokotoko (carved walking stick) gifted to Hundertwasser by Ngāti Hine leader Kevin Prime.