After New Zealand comes out of lockdown, Whangārei residents can start counting the days until the giant Hundertwasser structure – currently an unsightly ensemble of concrete and steel – will finally receive some colour and shape.

Greg Hay, project spokesman for the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery, said just before the country went into lockdown, contractors were only one month away from completing the building's core structure, calling it a "pretty big milestone".

The construction will then move into the fit-out phase meaning specialist tilers will start to set ceramic tiles following Friedensreich Hundertwasser's bold concepts of colour and form.

"It's a massive job in itself as with any Hundertwasser building. The detailing of it is a pretty big process. Once the hard and ugly work is done, the building will start to reveal its character," Hay said.

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The project team, led by chief executive officer Kathleen Drumm, is not sure what the global implications are in terms of product supply. However, most material needed from overseas – including specific ceramic tiles from Austria – have already been shipped and the majority of required material is sourced locally.

The model of the Hundertwasser building indicates that the art centre will be a colourful addition to the Town Basin. Photo / File
The model of the Hundertwasser building indicates that the art centre will be a colourful addition to the Town Basin. Photo / File

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"Just like the rest of the country, we're shut down at the moment. The effects that everyone else is going to suffer, we'll suffer too. But when the country comes out of the lockdown, things will start cranking just as they were."

Hay said the project team wasn't sure yet whether the delay is likely to cause any extra cost, on top of the $30 million budget – mostly funded through donations and central government with some money coming from Whangārei District Council.

Last year, law changes requiring higher safety standards and technical difficulties met during construction had put a $4m strain on the budget plans. Hay said the needed extra money was well under way and a portion of that had already been raised.

"The fundraising is going great."

The Hundertwasser Arts Centre constructions will resume once the lockdown is over.
The Hundertwasser Arts Centre constructions will resume once the lockdown is over.

As for revenue coming in from tourists, Hay said it was hard to predict anything at this stage, since the Government hasn't released information about reopening New Zealand's borders.

Assuming the lockdown ends soon and constructions can resume without further complications, the structure will be finished early next year, "but then we'll have to go through a period of acclimatising the building for the artwork", Hay said.

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Prior to lockdown, the project was hoping to open the art centre doors in June 2021.

"I would imagine that we'll delay that by a month or two."