The Whangarei District Council has been challenged over its spending on sports as opposed to the arts, as debate rages over its proposed Hundertwasser gallery.
The Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who designed the gallery before his death in 2000, lived near Kawakawa for many years.
A group of eight councillors has forced the council to stop planning work on the $14 million project and conduct an opinion poll to gauge public support.
But councillor John Williamson points out the council has felt no need for specialist consultation on the $50 million it has spent on sport facilities over the past decade.
He says it has spent nearly $8 million in the past year alone on new sportsfields - about the same amount that ratepayers are being asked to contribute to the Hundertwasser project.
"We're a sports-minded district," says Mr Williamson, "and that's fine - so long as we have some balance."
Opponents of the gallery object to the cost and the unusual design. Supporters say the cost is relatively modest, and the gallery would put Whangarei on the map, just as the Hundertwasser toilets have made Kawakawa a tourist magnet.