Those behind the Hundertwasser Art Centre project have defended a research trip to Vienna for 11 people which cost just over $90,000.
Information released by Whangārei District Council under the Official Information Act showed the trust, a council controlled organisation, spent $91,168 on the trip in July last year.
Spokesman Greg Hay said the group included key personnel from the Hundertwasser Art Centre project - two from project management, four from the lead contractor, including two tilers and plasterers, as well as site manager and foreman, videographer, Hundertwasser Foundation NZ representative and a WAMT representative.
"This was a fact-finding and research trip by the people tasked with actually bringing the Hundertwasser building to life. None of those working on the HAC has ever delivered a project remotely like it and there were many technical nuances as to how you actually achieve it that needed to be experiences first-hand,'' Hay said.
Everyone who went was involved with different aspects of the project so each needed to see the living examples of Hundertwasser's work in a practical sense, he said.
The toilet block in Kawakawa "simply doesn't have anywhere near the level of detail and variance" that seeing whole buildings provides.
The Vienna trip group all said they were greatly influenced by what they saw and experienced, and this knowledge will be used throughout their work, he said.
The costs for the week-long trip were borne by the Hundertwasser Art Centre project.
The OIA revealed the group flew business class between Auckland and Dubai.
Hay said the group went into a workshop only hours after arriving. The following days involved more meetings and visits.
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"It was a busy agenda and as such it was thought sensible that those travelling be able to try to sleep on the flight from New Zealand so that days were not lost to jet lag and recovery."
The group visited Hundertwasser Foundation HQ, Knusthaus, Hundertwasser House, Incinerator Spittelau (Hundertwasser buildings), the NZ ambassador to Austria and Rodgenor Bad Blumau (Hundertwasser Hotel outside of Vienna.
Hay said Whangārei District Council has no say in how the project is administered financially. While Whangārei Art Museum Trust is a CCO, it acts independently and all decisions are taken by a board.
"The HAC is a project of close to $29 million and to invest the sum spent on this trip in ensuring that what is delivered is authentic, that the people building the HAC actually understand how to do it and that it be of a standard that the city can be proud of is really crucial."