The 13th year since the death of Friedensreich Hundertwasser was marked with the first planting of trees in the new Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park on February 19.
This day marks the anniversary of the death of the artist, whose work has become a part of the town's spirit.
Noma Shepherd the chairperson of the Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Trust says that she views it as marking the beginning for the park.
"We sort of think of it as the beginning - it's taken five years to get here, but it was really special that we could actually plant on the day that commemorates his death," she says. The day's celebrations will soon be followed by a stage of community planting as members of the community are invited to complete the planting. The autumn will include bringing school kids down to plant and take part in, and thereby to take some ownership of, the commemorative park.
Three people were chosen to plant the first three trees in the new park.
Noma, the wife of the late Doug Shepherd who was Mr Hundertwasser's farm manager on his property at Kaurinui, planted a liquid amber.
A personal friend of Mr Hundertwasser Thomas Lauterbach, an artist from Rawhiti, chose a gingko tree. Kevin Prime carved the tokotoko which was presented to Mr Hundertwasser at the blessings of the Hundertwasser toilet in 1999, but was not able to be present. His brother Rev Jim Prime and his wife Sarah planted a kauri tree.
An information centre is planned to overlook the park, benches will allow visitors to sit and take in the views and bridges - none of which will form straight lines, naturally, will allow visitors to wander through the space.
Noma says it was Mr Hundertwasser's passion for planting trees and the environment that led to the decision to honour his memory with the park.
Their two properties adjoined and her husband Doug worked for the artist from when he first came to New Zealand in 1975. The land that Mr Hundertwasser bought had been a dairy farm and had been cleared, but he set to work replanting it from the beginning. And though not all the trees were native - and though it might have been difficult at first to see how clear his vision for the place was - he clearly had a vision.
"He believed that everything could live side by side," Noma says.
"He knew exactly where he wanted everything," she recalls. Mr Hundertwasser would draw a diagram for her husband to follow when he planted.
"Now when you go down there in the autumn it's an absolute picture, it's gorgeous.
"All these autumn colours drift through the place - it's lovely."
The intent is to recreate that thinking in the Hundertwasser park.
"We want to do something that is going to reflect what he did for the town," she says. "He could see things that none of us could see at times, that's for sure. The way he planted those trees down there - you couldn't see it at the time, but it was really beautiful."
The park ought to be open to the public after the planting in the autumn.
"The idea is to take your time and wander around, to take your lunch and have a bit of a picnic if you want to," Noma says.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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