Construction of a $6.4 million Hundertwasser-inspired community hub is due to start in Kawakawa on Monday. Te Hononga, or ''the joining together of peoples'', will combine a library, council service centre, gallery, community workshop, showers and toilets for freedom campers, and an interpretative centre exploring the relationship between the town and Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
The project, which had a difficult 12-year gestation, includes bus and car parking to ease Kawakawa's summertime congestion and a town square linking the main street with the hub.
Te Hononga will be built on what used to be a gravel car park behind the town's famous toilets while the square will replace the current library, which is slated for demolition later this year.
It will be built using a rammed-earth-based method called Sirewall by the end of this year with fit-out complete by April 2020.
The project started on Friday with the burial of a mauri (life force) stone by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
Jones' Provincial Growth Fund has contributed $2.4m to the project. Other funding has come from various Lottery funds ($1m total), Far North Holdings (about $800,000), Foundation North and the Northland Regional Council ($500,000 each), the Far North District Council (close to $500,000) and the government's Tourism Infrastructure Fund ($344,000).
About 90 people turned out for yesterday's ceremony, including a who's who of local and central government in Northland.
Jones said it was a matter of personal pride to be able to direct putea (money) to the project and help rejuvenate the area where he spent his holidays as a child.
''Kawakawa is the waharoa (gateway) to the Bay of Islands. This is long-term infrastructure, it will enable other investors to follow up,'' he said.
''It will show we do have pride in our history, we want to recover our environment, we want to extend sustainability — that's the kind of tone I want to set from the North.''
Far North Deputy mayor Tania McInnes said Te Hononga, which is a partnership between Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust and local iwi Ngāti Hine, was a great example of a community, local government and iwi working together.
''We always talk about it but we don't always do it well. It will be an amazing building and it will also be an example of how you can build trust and work together.''
Project partnership co-chair Pita Tipene said the complex would cement Kawakawa's standing as a cultural hub.
''Geographically it already is. This will enhance the vibrancy of the town. That's what people want to see — liveliness, vitality and coming together of people.''
The lead contractor will be Whangārei-based Harnett Builders with JS Hepi Contracting making the earth walls.
Ten builders on site will be joined by 16 trainees recruited from around the Mid North. FNDC-owned company Far North Holdings is managing the project.
The building will be decorated inside and out by Northland artists including master carver Te Warihi Hetaraka of Whangārei.
The mauri stone was taken from a site on Motatau Mountain where warriors were once prepared for battle, and where the Prime family gifted Hundertwasser a tokotoko (carved walking stick) also called Te Hononga.
Fundraising is continuing for landscaping and artworks.