Hundertwasser’s Legacy Provides a Multitude of Volunteering Opportunities November 2022

Story by Janine Duncan, Volunteering Northland

After nearly thirty years from the dream to reality, three years of construction and thousands of voluntary hours, the Silver Qualmark rated Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery opened in February 2022.  
Since its opening, it has received widespread acclaim.  
Visitor numbers have been constant with recent comments including references to “loving the experience”, “gaining more than expected” and “exceeding expectations.”
The Hundertwasser Art Centre is a testament to Hundertwasser’s vision, legacy and principles relating to art, architecture and ecology. 
His strong focus on “a human architecture in harmony with individual creativity, reforestation and returning territories to nature” are evident on the afforested roof, recycled building materials, and uneven floors created during the construction stage
According to Helen Finlayson, Volunteer Co-ordinator, the “building has an impact on everyone.”  Hundertwasser believed that art should be purposeful, “to strive for beauty in harmony with nature.”   One cannot help but admire the building’s striking exterior while the inside contains an abundance of detail.  The spirals, columns, colours, mosaics, tiles, gold cupola and winding interior staircases are all intrinsically Hundertwasser’s unique style.
Additionally, the cupola and afforested roof provide a unique opportunity to view Whangarei from a different perspective. 
It is akin to ‘’the city being spread out at your feet.”  Visitors can wander through the building at their leisure or opt for a one hour guided tour.

A permanent exhibition, Hundertwasser in New Zealand 1973 to 2000 curated by the Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation in Vienna, displays original art including many aspects of Hundertwasser’s oeuvre.
Part of Hundertwasser’s vision was to incorporate a carved Māori element in his architecture. This has been expanded with the creation of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery dedicated to highlighting contemporary Māori artwork.  Hundertwasser was particularly interested in Māori cultural connectedness to their environment.
The current exhibition “Tohu Whakitipu” opened recently, and is a collection of mixed media which focuses on the use of Māori symbols.
Exhibitions within this space are scheduled to change every three to four months.
Due to visitor numbers, the array of events held, scheduled school workshops and tours, volunteers are always in demand.  Helen Finlayson, Volunteer-Coordinator, currently oversees 60 active volunteers across all age groups. 
A former visitor host at the Auckland Art Gallery, Helen began volunteering at the Whangarei Art Museum and Hundertwasser Headquarters, the fundraising hub for the proposed Hundertwasser Art Centre, after moving to Whangarei eight years ago.
Like many staff within the organisation, she was eventually offered paid employment and relished the opportunity.  In her current position, she loves the opportunity to “connect with people,” observe their growth and development, and “share her love of art.”

Volunteer’s roles range from tour guiding, visitor hosting, event assistance to learning and education.
However, there is also the potential to work behind the scenes and from home.  Helen ensures the skills and abilities of volunteers are matched with prospective opportunities to find the perfect fit for both the volunteer and the organisation.
Training is comprehensive, customised and ongoing.
All volunteers must first complete a health and safety induction workshop.  Specific Hundertwasser training follows this with guidance provided by the Hundertwasser Non Profit Foundation.
Volunteers are also offered the opportunity to attend the same meetings and training workshops available to paid staff.
Helen describes her volunteers as “phenomenal”. They greatly assist paid staff, which enriches the visitor experience.  All have varied reasons and motivations for volunteering. Some have a strong passion for the project, others wish to work in the arts sector or have a desire to utilise their background in teaching or education.  
Prospective or interested volunteers are invited to complete the online form on the organisation’s website. Once registered, access is granted to a portal that lists all the available volunteering opportunities.  Additionally, the organisation is very accommodating in terms of flexibility.  Therefore, volunteers do not necessarily need to commit to set hours or days each week.
According to Helen, current volunteers describe volunteering highlights as the “friendliness of staff”, “feeling included”, “opportunities for ongoing learning and being part of something bigger than themselves.” If you are interested in volunteering, you may contact Volunteering Northland, complete the Hundertwasser Art Centre’s online form, or simply visit Helen at the Hundertwasser Art Centre.
Helen is more than willing to meet, chat and answer any questions.
For information on volunteering opportunities, please visit or