Wait over for Matakana toilets

SENTINELS: The half-faces at the entrance to the toilets are moulded concrete with the rest of the structure 'shotcrete' over wooden moulds. The facade and door of each room is recycled kauri with copper edging.
SENTINELS: The half-faces at the entrance to the toilets are moulded concrete with the rest of the structure 'shotcrete' over wooden moulds. The facade and door of each room is recycled kauri with copper edging.

Surreal sculptured Matakana toilets officially opened to the public last Wednesday, taking seven years to complete.

When the idea of public toilets was mooted in 2002, rather than a one-size-fits-all style of convenience there was a call for an artistic statement like the colourful Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa – a tourist drawcard.

A competition for the final design saw 25 entries received, 12 from commercial architects and designers. The winner was Matakana lad Steffan de Haan, who was in his first year at the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University.

Elements of his design are drawn from local history – the arched rooms resembling a boat hull to reflect the importance boat building has had to the area.

But there was strong opposition to the toilets, originally proposed in the Matakana Wharf Reserve, which lead to lengthy delays and considerably more expense. A new site was already occupied by a statue of King George, and subject to roading and power alterations and construction issues while tied up with Rodney District Council plans for the area, council project manager Peter Bilton says.

Those included having to wait for construction of a roundabout at the end of Matakana Valley Rd, as this would effect positioning of the toilets and also underground power cables.

Getting resource consent at the new site proved another issue when it was found to be straddling different zones within the reserve.

But at last the sculptured toilets are finished at a cost of about $400,000.

While twice the price of a standard convenience block, the cost includes extra expenses incurred with changing sites, Mr Bilton says. The local community contributed one-third of the cost from fundraising, with many artists and contractors donating their time, he says.

The toilets have been insured for $500,000, reflecting their unique nature.

Trish Allen of Matakana, who has been a driving force behind the project, says she is inspired by the idea of usable artwork.

She is “very proud” of the toilets. Since the view is also much better than from the original site, “perhaps we should thank the original detractors”, she says.

Helensville could learn from the Matakana loo experience.

The town is also considering new public toilets, and Mr Bilton says a call by several residents for creative toilets is meeting some resistance. 

Rodney Times