When it comes to New Zealand, the country is packed with bucket-list spots to visit. There’s the breathtaking fjord-land, those pristine beaches and 60 million sheep nestled in that seriously green countryside.
But a toilet tucked away in a remote town in an even remoter stretch of the North Island? It seems so. In fact, a staggering 250,000 tourist traipse-up through the guts of the country to Kawakawa, a town found five-hours north of Auckland, to visit a toilet block each year.
But this is hardly your standard public bathroom.
The Hundertwasser toilet’s allure is founded in the fact it’s an architectural stunner, created by famed Austrian architect and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
His work, which ranges from pocket-sized canvases to incredibly unique buildings, is spotted around Austria’s Vienna and Germany and always attracts a crowd. And this maze of a toilet is the only example of his architectural work in the Southern Hemisphere.
Hundertwasser moved to New Zealand in the 1970s and created his toilet masterpiece in 1999. But the architect never got to see how popular it would become in the next two decades as the following year he died at sea at the age of 71.
These days there’s a steady stream of travelers detouring ten-minutes off the state highway to Kawakawa to have their photo taken inside and outside of the unusual design on any given day.
And the neat line of tourists waiting to have their photo moment actually rarely use the fully-working facilities available.
Hundertwasser was an architect whose work focused firmly on opposing the concept of a straight line, and the toilet is a cobbled example of this.
He used bricks recycled from a demolished Bank of New Zealand building, tiles made by students at Bay of Islands College, empty bottles and scraps of concrete, steel and copper for the truly eclectic creation.
But why? Essentially, it was a commissioned piece by the Kawawaka Community Board who wanted the tourist driving to the nearby Bay of Islands, the third most popular spot for visitors in the country, to use the former coal town as a pit-stop to help with dwindling economics.
And it worked. With the constant arrival of tourists, small cafes have popped-up along the very small high street that was one run-down and desolate. And the area has unofficially become known as “Hundertwasser Town”.
It perhaps sounds a little potty that a toilet can push life into a remote Kiwi town but toilet tourism has continued to grow in New Zealand and is taken very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that a huge chunk of this year’s NZ$19.3million tourism funding is going to improve public toilets.
And that’s not just freshening-up bathrooms across the country but ensuring that facilities are a tourist attraction within themselves, breathing life into areas that might need a little help or enhancing hot-spots that are already favorites.