Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Fight over turning a lawn into a carpark at Hamilton Gardens

Andrew McRae, Waikato Reporter

Grass versus tarseal. A row is brewing in Hamilton over what is known as the Rhododendron Lawn at the Hamilton Gardens.

a large lawn with
trees in the background

The Rhododendron Lawn has been the scene of many summer concerts, picnics and food markets. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The council wants to turn the lawn into a carpark.

The Hamilton Gardens are set on 54-hectares next to the Waikato River.

The area was first a Māori settlement with food gardens and then it was used as a rifle range, after that a quarry and eventually a rubbish dump.

It has been transformed into public gardens, which includes 20 themed gardens and more on the drawing board.

A redevelopment plan includes sealing the lawn and then opening up another green space further away.

The Rhododendron Lawn has been the scene of many events over the years including summer concerts, picnics and food markets.

Turning grass into bitumen has not gone down well with a number of people.

Graeme Cairns Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Actor and entertainer Graeme Cairns has performed in the gardens many times.

He described the lawn as like a huge village green.

"It's quite beautiful. The rhododendrons are out and there's a big area of flat grass in the middle, a huge area actually. The vibe and the look is a little bit like Pukekura Park in Taranaki where they have WOMAD, so it's that special and that remarkable," Mr Cairns said.

"This is the best outdoor performance space not just in the gardens, probably I would say in Hamilton and possibly even the whole of Waikato," he said.

He is not impressed with the two alternatives being suggested for events that now use the lawn.

"They are both quite noisy, in fact one of them is much, much nosier as it's right next to Cobham Drive and even though they have put a bit of dirt there it is still rowdy as anything and it's extremely peripheral, like it's way off in the far corner of the gardens."

At the end of February each year the garden's host the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

Hamish Nathan Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

A former festival director, Hamish Nathan said most of the development plan for the gardens was fantastic, but not the demise of the Rhodo lawn, which came as a shock to him.

"People like myself who have been reasonably engaged with the gardens over the years have seen all of these pretty pictures of the new gardens and things that are happening, but probably never in our wildest dreams thought the possibility of having the rhodo lawn turned into a carpark was ever on the table."

He accepts the information has been publicly available.

"I wouldn't say it has been particularly well publicised as far as the lawn goes.

"Maybe bit of that old magical trick of 'ook at all this shiny stuff over here while I take this away', so you [don't] realise it's gone until it's gone."

Mr Nathan said the lawn was a unique space that could not be replicated anywhere else in the gardens.

He wants the city council to reconsider.

Speaking at the gardens, Mr Nathan mused about the view.

"We are sitting here looking out across the lake-side stage through to the Rhododendron Lawn, a beautiful green space, and potentially there is going to be a few big ugly tour buses sitting there, ruining the view."

The council describes the development plan as exciting and bold to help further enhance the Hamilton Gardens, so it becomes a truly world-class tourist attraction.

Council says carpark best option

Its general manager community Lance Vervoot said there were other options, but sealing the lawn was the best one.

"This proposal centralises parking and gets better traffic and visitor flows, and if we were going to look at the other options any further we would have to do a lot more detailed work, but we really believe it wouldn't be as optimum as the proposal we have put forward."

The gardens are Waikato's most popular attraction with over a million visitors every year.

Mr Vervoot said the space to expand on the site was fairly limited, so everything possible needed to be considered to enhance what was a wonderful attraction.

"Yes the gardens is very successful, yes it gets pressures on it, it's got challenges but it is also a huge opportunity and with limited space that is why we have to get the spatial planning right and taking a bit more time to do that is the right thing to do."

At Thursday's council meeting there are three recommendations on the table.

Approve or not approve the plan, or defer a decision and call for more information.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On Why The Dice Are Loaded Against Women In Public Life

If they enter public life, women can expect a type of intense (and contradictory) scrutiny that is rarely applied to their male counterparts... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Harry/Meghan Affair, And Iran

Those “Meghzit” headlines seem apt, given how closely Britain’s January 31 exit from the European Union resembles the imminent departure from the Royal Family’s top team of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For young Iranians, the accidental downing of the Ukrainian airliner is just the latest example of the deadly incompetence and dishonesty of their leaders... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Iran Aftermath

So, evidently, you can get away with murder. It looks as though a further escalation in the ongoing war between Iran and the US has been avoided – mainly thanks to Iran NOT responding in kind to the recklessly unhinged behaviour by the United States. Given the massive outpouring of public grief in Iran over the murder of Qassem Soleimani, some reciprocal action by Iran was necessary, but (so far) it has been almost entirely symbolic in nature... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Aussie Bush Fires And Suleimani

In popular culture, Australia is often portrayed as Western civilisation’s last unspoiled frontier, or as its final refuge from planetary disaster. In Nevil Shute’s best-selling 1950s novel On The Beach for instance, Melbourne served as the backdrop ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Best Music Of 2019

This was a year where so many of the highlights came from female musicians. But amid all that richness, there was one standout album... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Scotland’s Renewed Independence Battle

Brexit has always been very much an English obsession... So while it isn’t surprising that Boris Johnson won the election, he might also have lost the United Kingdom in the process. More>>