Celebrating community achievements

Published on 15 October 2020


Last Friday, hundreds of Northland residents converged on Kawakawa to witness Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern officially open the town’s new cultural and community hub. Te Hononga, or ‘the joining together of people’, pays homage to Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who lived in the area from 1975. Kawakawa is already famous for the public toilets Hundertwasser designed and helped to build, and which opened in 1999 shortly before his death. With its Hundertwasser-inspired curved walls and mosaic pillars, Te Hononga continues the artist’s legacy. Shaped like two hearts joined, the building houses a new Council library and service centre, gallery, Hundertwasser interpretative centre, community workshop, and public toilets and showers. Outside, a parking area will help accommodate the thousands of tourists who visit the town annually to view Hundertwasser’s toilets.

This new cultural and community hub is truly impressive, and I urge you to visit Te Hononga and explore this building for yourselves. It was a huge honour to host the Prime Minister, along with the MPs Kelvin Davis, Shane Jones, Willow Jean Prime and Andrew Little. However, what made Friday so special was the sense of community pride and ownership that was so clearly on display and that could not be dampened by the cold and blustery conditions.

The Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust, which has spearheaded efforts to create a community building since 2008, has helped create and maintain that community enthusiasm. The group, chaired by Noma Shepherd, has worked hard to include the whole community. Key partnerships include Te Runanga O Ngati Hine, Far North District Council, Kawakawa Business and Community Association, Bay of Islands Whangaroa Community Board, Far North Holdings (which managed the project), Northland Regional Council, and a range of Northland businesses that undertook almost all aspects of the project build. Funders included the Council, the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, Lotteries, Foundation North and the Provincial Growth Fund.

The following Saturday, my wife Leoni and I were guests of the Kaitaia Fijian community. We were asked to mark a significant anniversary for the Pacific nation – 50 years since Fiji gained independence from British rule and established a parliamentary democracy. This was another example of people keeping their community alive and focusing on what they can achieve together. Fiji’s political landscape has in the past been divided along ethnic lines and many of those attending the 50th Anniversary event had left their homeland because of those divisions. Here in Te Hiku, they have focused on what unites them as Fijians – a shared culture that makes them unique in the world. It was wonderful to witness the pride and joy they all took in celebrating that anniversary.  

After a year in which we all have had to rethink and reduce our community links because of the threat of COVID-19, these two events have been a very clear reminder of what is important – strong and vibrant communities. Working together, we can and are making this a great place to live.