The sum of $24 million would seem daunting to anybody. Not Nicola Williams.

The Taupō businesswoman has spent much of the past six years devoting her energy to the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui as the chairwoman of its trust.

Williams was brought on as the unpaid chairwoman of the gallery trust in 2013 to help with the task of fundraising the $24m needed to redevelop, extend and earthquake-proof the gallery.

The trust has achieved that goal and more - cost escalations mean that so far it has raised $34.5m, with more still needed.


In recognition of her leadership and commitment to the project, Williams has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to arts governance in today's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Although she lives in Taupō, Williams has retained strong links with her hometown of Whanganui. She is an avid proponent of the arts and has been a supporter of the Sarjeant Gallery since 1994.

Her citation says Williams' many hours of voluntary fundraising have also helped build the gallery's reputation, raise its profile and ensure its long-term viability.

Williams said the project hadn't been easy but she loved a challenge.

"If someone says to me something can't be done, then I think it's worth doing.

"But I really believed in the project so that got my blood pumping and I actually find it enormously gratifying."

Williams said the honour was a testimony to the project and the level of support from many people around New Zealand.

She has a background in finance and international business.


The 100-year-old Sarjeant Gallery holds heritage status and has a nationally significant collection of New Zealand and European artwork spanning 400 years of art history.