The official opening of Whangārei's controversial Hundertwasser Art Centre has been delayed three months, with the trust behind the colourful building citing Covid-19 as a cause of the postponement.
Work on the $33.2 million project began three years ago and it was due to open on December 15. It has been mired in controversy since it was put back on the Whangārei District Council's radar in 2008 by then Mayor Stan Semenoff.
At that time it was said that the centre would cost $9.5million and there would be no funds from ratepayers.
Since then the idea was taken over by a charitable trust and a combination of public donations, ratepayer and taxpayer funding - including $18.4 million from the Provincial Growth Fund - has been gathered to get the project built.
However, Hatea Art Precinct Trust (HAPT) - the governing body behind of the centre - said the official opening of the centre has been delayed due to disruption caused by Covid-19.
The centre was initially planned to open on December 15, the day the late internationally renowned artist would have turned 93.
Instead, the building, including the Hundertwasser gallery containing a significant exhibition of the artist's work, as well as the independently governed Wairau Māori Art Gallery, will open to the public on February 20. This means it will miss the busy Summer season visitors.
From December 3 the construction fences surrounding the building will come down and visitors will be able to walk around the grounds of the new $33m building, which is itself considered a work of art.
They will also be able to go to Aqua Restaurant & Bar, which has opened in the centre, allowing people to get a glimpse of the interior of the Art Centre.
HAPT Chair Thomas Biss said that Covid-19 had created uncertain times for activities around all New Zealand, and the centre was no exception.
"The impact of the pandemic has been felt deeply throughout the Northland and Auckland regions and this has prevented Wairau Māori Art Gallery from being able to assemble their inaugural exhibition. There have also been delays with the delivery of art from Europe", Biss said.
Delivery of essential materials needed to complete the building, such as the accessible stair lift connecting the rooftop garden to the gold cupola have also been held up. This has been compounded by the inability of technicians to come across the border from Auckland for specialised work and installations.
The Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna has also expressed a strong desire for the Hundertwasser gallery to open at the same time as Wairau.
Chair of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Charitable Trust, Elizabeth Ellis said the Wairau Māori Art Gallery has been created to profile the best of Māori art and provide New Zealand with its first public Māori art gallery solely dedicated to profiling Māori artists and curators.
''While we would have liked to have opened the inaugural exhibition earlier, what visitors will be able to experience in February will be well worth the wait and unique to Northland," Ellis said.