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READY, SET, GO! Construction starting on Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei

25 years after he was asked to design an art centre for Whangarei, construction of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s iconic and much-discussed project is finally set to begin.

“It has taken a herculean effort from dedicated volunteers and supporters, and a landslide referendum win by the people of Whangarei, but I’m happy to finally be able to say that we’re ready to build the HUNDERTWASSER ART CENTRE with Wairau Māori Art Gallery” says Whangarei Art Museum Trust Chairman Grant Faber.

“Work will start on the 11th of June.”

“This is the big news supporters have been waiting for since June last year. So much complex work needed to be completed; design finalisation, peer reviewing, consents, tendering, contracts, operational planning. There have been times we thought we might not get here, so it feels unbelievably good to finally be underway” he says.

Hundertwasser was born in Austria, became a New Zealand citizen and lived for more than 30 years in Northland. His art, architecture and conservation work is celebrated around the world. Whangarei’s Art Centre will be the last building the artist personally chose to rework in his unique architectural style.

As a result of a nationwide tendering process, Whangarei-based commercial building company Trigg Construction has been appointed as the lead contractor for the 27-month build.

“It is an absolute honour and a real privilege to have been entrusted to build a project that means so much for Whangarei and all of Northland,” says Trigg Construction Managing Director Darrell Trigg.

“No one in New Zealand has ever built anything even remotely like the Hundertwasser Art Centre, so it’s going to be an exciting challenge and a career highlight for our local contractors” he says.

Project management will be the responsibility of Griffiths & Associates, another Whangarei business, which also took the lead during the design and procurement process. Local firm HB Architects have been working on the project since 2011 and will ensure the final building meets their detailed plans, approved and overseen by the Vienna-based Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation.

Grant Faber says the first signs of activity will be fences going up around the old Harbour Board building, which currently occupies the site.

“Straight away a team of volunteers will move in and take material from the old building for eventual re-use in the new” Mr Faber says. “The Old Army Drill Hall on the corner of Walton Street is now the project’s recycling centre, where we’ll be storing, sorting and refurbishing material for the Art Centre from the old building and around New Zealand.”

“Volunteers remain an integral part of this project. We’ve only got to this point because of immense community spirit. It is going to be a structure unlike anything else in the country and we’re inviting all of New Zealand to become part of the art.”

The project received a massive boost with the announcement yesterday by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones that the government would be investing a total of $10 million ($7m of new funding) from its Provincial Growth Fund.

“Annually, the Centre will attract over 202,000 visitors and bring $26.5 million in net economic benefit. It will also help create over 60 full-time equivalent jobs during the two-year construction period” Shane Jones says.

The new funding covers construction cost inflation and increased contingency for the build, the re-evaluation and improvement to the foundation designs, and a large portion of the pre-opening operational expenses.

An updated economic impact report, from Northland’s Regional Economic Development Agency Northland Inc, estimates construction activity of the Centre will generate $49 million for the region.

The project has now fully-funded the contracted construction price and met over 70% of fit-out and pre-opening costs. “We still have a portion to fundraise during the construction phase, but we’re now 100% confident we can start building knowing we’ll be opening New Zealand’s most exciting new building before the end of 2020.”

Donations towards the project can still be made on the Centre’s website or at Hundertwasser HQ inside the Whangarei visitors centre. To learn more visit https://bepartoftheart.co.nz/

About the HUNDERTWASSER ART CENTRE with Wairau Māori Art Gallery
The Centre will be multi-faceted and multi-functional with features including a state-of-the-art gallery of original Hundertwasser works and New Zealand’s first gallery dedicated to contemporary Māori fine art. It will be located at the site Hundertwasser chose, on the corner Quayside and Riverside at the Whangarei Town Basin.