Article: Property Investment

Applause For Hundertwasser Campaigners with Frank NewmanApplause For Hundertwasser Campaigners with Frank Newman

Well done to the promoters of the Hundertwasser Art Centre project. Whether one supported the project or not, applause must go to those who got behind the project and put in the effort to reach the funding target. Work may begin before Christmas. A $3 million contribution from central government, on top of the $4 million committed earlier, and a $3.5 million grant from the NZ Lottery Grants Board, has taken the fundraising total to $21.7 million.

Many, myself included, had feared ratepayers would end up footing a large part of the bill given the propensity for politicians to be generous with other peoples’ money. Fortunately that is not the case, although that does not mean to say ratepayers are getting away without cost. The Northland Regional Council has committed $1.5 million and the Whangarei District Council (WDC) has made a commitment to contribute $2.8 million for earthquake strengthening, new foundations, refurbishment and the access road to the commercial fishing wharf. In addition to this there is the historic $2.2m cost of the building when it was purchased by the WDC in May 2003, and the considerable holding costs since. The fact that a building in such a prime location has been idle for 14 years while the WDC dithered is an indictment in itself. Progress was only really made when the project passed from Council to enthusiasts. The project was certainly a long time in the making, and dates back to 1993 when the then mayor, Stan Semenoff, invited Friedrich Hundertwasser to design an art centre. Unfortunately, it has been the case in Whangarei that vision takes a long time to come into focus.

Whatever one thinks about the quirky building design, there is no doubt it will excite and unite a large section of the community. Not many projects can do that. I personally believe Whangarei needs something unusual and iconic, something attention grabbing, to create a point of difference and give tourists a reason to call in to Whangarei instead of driving by.

The unusual building will also add an exclamation mark to the Hatea Loop and gives real potential for the walkway to become a sculpture trail of national significance; it already has a piece that is of national significance in the ‘Waka and Wave’ sculpture by Chris Booth. It also creates an opportunity for the local creative community to become more vibrant and better recognised nationally, which in itself adds character and colour to a community - as well as economic potential using local talent.

As one who has seen Whangarei struggle economically and socially for too long, it’s great to see the community gravitating around a common cause, and to recognise the many doors of opportunity that will now start to open. For this we need to thank a relatively small group of dedicated enthusiasts. No doubt they will feel a sense of personal pride as their model grows into a reality.

Looking further afield, the UK election result has brought a surprising result. Instead of increasing their numbers in the 650 seat Parliament, Theresa May’s Conservative Party fell from 331 seats to 318, well short of the 326 needed for an outright majority. Against all predictions, the Labour Party gained 30 seats, rising from 232 to 262 despite having a leader in Jeremy Corbyn, whom many had described as unelectable.

With New Zealand’s General Election just over three months away, our politicians will no doubt be dissecting the UK’s shock result. There is now an all too familiar message coming from overseas elections:

* Polls can no longer be trusted as reliable predictors of election outcomes. No one
  should be taking the electorate for granted, a message National should have learnt
from the Northland by-election in 2015 when Winston Peters stole the seat from
them.

* Social media is becoming increasingly important as a campaign tool, particularly to
reach younger voters.

* Politicians who are seen to be part of the political establishment (born to rule class)
are getting hammered while those who give voters the impression of being just like
them, do well.

* Voters are showing less loyalty to political parties and a greater willingness to
switch.

The NZ Labour Party has already indicated they will place greater emphasis on online advertising and presumably social media, and they will be hearted that if an “unelectable” leader of the UK Labour Party gained traction, then so too could a grumpy trade unionist called Andrew Little. Unfortunately for Labour, that is not been shown up in the polls, but then Labour will not be taking much notice of the polls.

Frank Newman is the principal of Newman Property Consultancy. He is the author of numerous books on investment matters. For questions or comment about this article contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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