The community trust behind a cultural hub in Kawakawa is defending its plan against accusations by Act Party leader David Seymour that it will create just three jobs in exchange for a $2.4 million Government grant.
The Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust, together with local iwi Ngāti Hine, is developing a rammed-earth building behind the town's famous Hundertwasser toilets which will include a public library, council service centre, art gallery, i-Site, public toilets and showers. It will also house an interpretive centre telling the story of Hundertwasser's connection to the town.
The project, called Te Hononga (''the joining of cultures''), was one of the first out of the blocks when Northland-based NZ First MP Shane Jones launched the billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund.
The centre's $2.4m grant has, however, been criticised by Seymour, who claimed it would create only three jobs at a cost of $800,000 each. He said the fund should be renamed the ''Shane Jones Re-election Fund''.
''To call it pork-barrel politics would be offensive to pigs,'' he said.
But trust chairwoman Noma Shepherd said Seymour's comments were ''just politics''.
The project would create many more jobs in the wider community as visitors, many of whom currently stop only briefly to see the loos, stayed longer and spent more.
She believed the project had been chosen for its benefits to Kawakawa and not for political ends.
''It'll create a central point, draw people into the town and promote businesses,'' she said.
It was true, as stated in a TV report, that a cafe had been dropped from the plans for fears it would cannibalise existing food outlets. That space would now be used for a creative workshop.
The trust had responded and adapted the plans as issues came to light, she said.
Project co-ordinator Lau'rell Pratt said six people, including local contractors, were already working on the project with that number expected to grow by at least 20 during construction.
However, the real purpose of the centre was to act as a catalyst for social and economic change, with benefits well beyond those who were directly employed.
One of the aims was to encourage visitors to stay a few hours in Kawakawa instead of 10 minutes. If all of the town's forecast 350,000 visitors spent just $5 that would translate to $1.75m a year, Pratt said.
Te Hononga was being built with the blessing of the Hundertwasser Non-profit Foundation in Austria. The foundation was helping five Ngāti Hine artists design the front entrance. Construction is to start later this year.