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Community Views Sought On Revised Hamilton Gardens Layout

Hamiltonians will be asked for their views on a proposed new layout for Hamilton Gardens that retains the Rhododendron Lawn.

Hamilton City Council consulted with the community on the draft Hamilton Gardens Management Plan over a two-month period last year from early April. More than 70% of submitters supported ongoing development of Hamilton’s key visitor attraction.

The plan proposed changes to the Gardens layout to address traffic congestion, access and parking issues. The proposal included relocating the main carpark to the site of the Rhododendron Lawn, which raised public concerns.

After hearing from the community, the Council put adoption of the draft management plan on hold and asked staff to investigate other layout options.

At its meeting today (28 May 2020), the Council approved further public consultation on an alternative layout that retains the Rhododendron Lawn and relocates parking to the upper part of the Hamilton Gardens site. Councillors voted 12 to one in favour of consultation with Councillor Rob Pascoe dissenting.

Consultation will focus specifically on whether the new proposal addresses community concerns about the future of the Rhododendron Lawn. The Hamilton Gardens Programme Governance Group, which oversees the Gardens’ development, has recommended the revised layout to the Council.

The consultation will take place over one month and will ask whether respondents support the new layout. Staff and councillors acknowledged consultation in a COVID-19 environment would require careful thought.

The Council delegated responsibility for finalising the timing, content and means of consultation to Mayor Paula Southgate, Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor, Cr Mark Bunting, Chair of the Community Committee, Committee Deputy Chair Cr Kesh Naidoo-Rauf and General Manager Community Lance Vervoort.

Cr Bunting says the process of deliberating on the draft management plan, although lengthier than expected, showed how interaction between the community and the Council worked best.

“Hamiltonians obviously felt strongly about the Rhododendron Lawn aspect of the draft management plan, so we pushed pause and looked for an alternative. We have found one that not only clears up a bunch of issues standing in the way of Hamilton Gardens’ development into a world-class attraction but also keeps a very special part of the Gardens intact.

“The public of Kirikiriroa care deeply about their Gardens so it’s important we all step calmly through this next part of the process and the Council gets a really clear direction for the future,” Cr Bunting says.

“We have ambitious plans for Hamilton Gardens. The aim is to deliver a world-class experience for local and international visitors from the time they enter the site to the time they leave – this gets us a step closer to realising that ambition.”

The revised layout introduces the potential for a treetop walk down to the Gardens entry and shared walking and cycling paths. A new through road will link the two gates, improve traffic flow and allow people to visit the Gardens safely on bike, by foot and through public transport.

Mr Vervoort says concentrating carparking in the upper part of the site will free up riverfront land for more appropriate use, including creating a better connection between the Gardens and the Waikato River.

“The Hamilton Gardens site is of great significance to mana whenua and further development will closely involve iwi to ensure their aspirations are realised in the choices made about the future shape of the Gardens.”

He says now is the best time to deal with the access and parking issues, which need to be resolved before much of the development set out in the draft management plan can take place. The plan proposes developing 12 new themed gardens in addition to the four gardens currently under development.

It outlines key operational aspects relating to management of the award-winning visitor destination and public park. Management plans are a Reserves Act requirement for all public parks and public consultation is an important part of the process.

The Council has applied for Government COVID-19 stimulus funding to accelerate Hamilton Gardens’ development and link the Gardens with the Waikato Museum via the river. A decision on that proposal is still pending.

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