Division over art centre
Visitors are keen to see it but some residents are adamant they do not support it.
The Hundertwasser Art Centre continues to polarise, after the district council threw its support behind the project and agreed to fund $6 million of the $13.6m cost.
Destination Northland general manager Brian Roberts says cruise ship agents are very excited about tours to see the art centre once it is open.
Between 70,000 and 80,000 visitors each year come to the Bay of Islands in a cruise ship.
About a third of those visitors book a Northland trip, getting on a bus after arriving in Paihia in the morning and visiting places like the Hokianga or Puketi Forest.
But they do not come to Whangarei because it does not offer anything they want to see, Mr Roberts says.
"That's where Hundertwasser will be significant, it will give Whangarei something unique in the whole South Pacific."
Cruise ship agents have already expressed interest in the art centre and plan to arrange tours once it's open, he says.
The Hundertwasser Art Centre will create huge touring opportunities for Whangarei, Mr Roberts says.
"I've worked as a tourism operator in Europe. Hand on my heart it will be fantastic for Whangarei," he says.
But his comments come as a telephone survey shows residents do not support the art centre.
The representative survey of 450 residents was commissioned by councillor Brian McLachlan and conducted by Group Research.
When asked if they support the council progressing and part-funding the project, 68 per cent said no and just 21 per cent said yes, with the remainder not knowing.
When asked what the money should be spent on instead, sewerage topped the suggestions, followed by roading and city improvements.
A high majority, 79 per cent, of those surveyed agreed there should have been a public referendum on Hundertwasser.
Mr McLachlan says the survey results clearly show the art centre is not supported by the majority of residents.
Many were bitterly opposed, giving extra comments even though they were not required for the survey.
"People are really angry. I've had phone call after phone call about it. People distrust the council so much," he says.
But despite the clear result of the survey, Mr McLachlan does not believe it will change the mind of councillors who back the project.
- © Fairfax NZ News