Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery

Dreamt up 30 years ago, the Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery is more than just a unique tourist attraction in Te Tai Tokerau, Northland.

A modern building with grey and white checkered pattern on the exterior walls, a brick wall in front and a round black building with a yellow dome roof

The Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery

Built on central Whangārei’s waterfront sits a building characterised by its organic curves, colourful tiles and living roof. A site that can’t be missed, The Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery (the Centre) houses 2 galleries – one dedicated to original Hundertwasser works and the other showcasing contemporary Māori art. This space is an education centre that encompasses art, sustainability, architecture and conservation, a theatre, and houses a commercially operative museum shop and café. Backroom space including an office, storage, staff, and visitor amenities were also constructed.

Hundertwasser is known as one of the 20th century's most celebrated European artists and spent 24 years of his life in the Bay of Islands – eventually becoming a New Zealand citizen. Back in 1993, he proposed the idea of a centre which was initially rejected; however, the plan was resurrected in 2008 and has now come to fruition. The name Hundertwasser is synonymous with Northland and this project adds cultural richness and economic benefit to Northland – continually growing the region's visitor economy.

To support its creation, the Hundertwasser Arts Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery received an $18.5 million grant from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), administered by Kānoa, with additional funding into the project from Northland Regional Council, Whangārei District Council and other public and private donations.

Since opening in February 2022, the centre has provided significant additional employment opportunities for Whangārei residents, offering between 22 to 40 seasonal, part-time and permanent roles. The investment also saw around 500 contractors and consultants working on the project during its 3-year construction period.

During the first 18 months of operations, the project successfully managed a number of considerable challenges, with the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events posing challenges to achieving projected visitor numbers.

In spite of this, the initial goal of the Hundertwasser Art Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery was realised – to deliver an exceptional cultural destination that enriches people’s lives through the experience of art and nature, while supporting economic growth and development for the region.

Northland Inc estimates the centre’s direct economic impact for Northland at $37 million, with an ongoing impact of $26 million per annum.

Not only does the space celebrate Hundertwasser’s artworks but it also was created to profile the best of Māori art and provide the country’s first public Māori art gallery solely dedicated to profiling Māori artists and curators.

Watch the full video series on how Hundertwasser and Wairau Māori Art Gallery, in combination with other projects in Te Tai Tokerau, have impacted the regions.