When a Hundertwasser Art Centre was first mooted for Whangārei, businessman Barry Trass got hold of Michael Hill, the jeweller. Trass was chair of the Prosper Northland Trust, the outfit behind the project, and he needed to raise a lot of money. He thought Hill would be a good touch - local boy made good, famously philanthropic, famously an arts lover.

Sorry, no, said Hill.

Trass was shocked. Hill told him he got asked for money every day and he just didn't believe the gallery would work.

The project crawled along. Fredensreich Hundertwasser was a world-renowned artist from Austria, living

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