The Government has given Whangārei's controversial Hundertwasser Arts Centre an additional $4.5 million of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, after contributing $13.9m to the scheme in 2018.
The money, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones on Thursday, is more than the $4m budget blowout announced by the trust behind the plan last November.
The Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Maori Art Gallery is being built at Whangārei Town Basin, and after an initial estimate of its costs rose to $26m, it's now expected that the project will cost $33.2m.
Whangārei Art Museum Trust chief executive Kathleen Drumm, who leads the project, said that while fundraising efforts were ongoing, the cash injection would allow the project to forge ahead with certainty.
"We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing governmental support. What we are building here will be an iconic new cultural and tourism destination for Northland. It will attract tens of thousands of visitors each year who will spend in the city and wider region, so the benefits will be shared by all," Drumm said.
The project had made substantial savings within its budget to mitigate the challenges it faced, and will continue to do so wherever possible while not compromising the quality of the build or the promise of the visitor experience, she said.
"The Hundertwasser Art Centre was identified by the region as a priority cultural and tourism project and its opening will be a realisation of a community vision, more than 25 years in the making. It is going to be a huge drawcard for visitors to this region," Peters said at Thursday's announcement.
He said additional costs have included seismic strengthening, asbestos removal from the old building which previously occupied the site, deeper pilings being required, and design changes due to new building rules coming in after the Kaikoura earthquake.
The art centre will house two galleries. The first is not just unique to New Zealand but unique to the world as the only gallery outside of Austria to house a permanent display of artist Friedrich Hundertwasser's art, worth millions of dollars. The Wairau Maori Art Gallery will become the national home to the best examples of contemporary Māori art, he said.
"The art centre is estimated to bring in an economic benefit of $26m to the region and more than 250,000 visitors to Whangārei annually, in line with the number of visitors the Hundertwasser toilets attract in Kawakawa," Jones said.
"With this increased activity happening in the region comes an exceptional opportunity for job growth, and for economic, social and cultural revitalisation. There are currently 65 people working on the project right now."
The Hundertwasser Art Centre is scheduled for completion in late 2021.