Lawn and order: Council seeks more feedback on revised gardens vision


The revised gardens plan introduces a potential treetop walk down to the gardens' entrance and shared walking and cycling paths. It also retains the beloved Rhododendron Lawn.

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The revised gardens plan introduces a potential treetop walk down to the gardens’ entrance and shared walking and cycling paths. It also retains the beloved Rhododendron Lawn.

Hamilton City Council is spending about $35,000 on a second round of public feedback on the future of the Hamilton Gardens, and this time it really wants to get its money’s worth.

A four-week consultation period on a revised layout for the gardens gets under way on Saturday.

It introduces a potential treetop walk down to the gardens entrance 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 by bike, foot or bus.

Riverfront land will also be freed up for more appropriate use, including linking the Gardens to the Waikato River.

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Council staff will also likely be hoping to avoid a repeat of the 11th hour backlash that surprised them when a group of gardens-goers objected to an earlier plan that proposed shifting the gardens’ main car park to the Rhododendron Lawn – the venue for decades of events including concerts, weddings and even teddy bears picnics.

That storm of opposition included an online petition that generated about 5000 responses.

Being subjected to the ire of the lobby group of lawn-lovers was evidently no picnic for council staff or councillors and the reconfigured layout – which retains the lawn as a green space – is tipped to appease those who objected to the earlier plan.

The council originally put its draft Hamilton Gardens Management Plan – which has so far come with a $38,000 price tag – to the public in April last year and got “rich feedback”, said Mark Bunting, who chairs the council’s community committee.

The Rhododendron Lawn has been the scene of decades of events including concerts, weddings, pumpkin carnivals and even teddy bears picnics.

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The Rhododendron Lawn has been the scene of decades of events including concerts, weddings, pumpkin carnivals and even teddy bears picnics.

While most who responded largely supported the plan, including the creation of 12 new themed gardens, “Hamiltonians obviously felt strongly about the Rhododendron Lawn aspect … and we listened to that”.

“The new concept keeps a special part of the gardens intact and tackles issues we need to resolve to make Hamilton Gardens excellent in every aspect.

“All that feedback and the views from this latest consultation will go into the mix when the community committee considers the draft management plan again in September.”

Bunting said the goal was a world-class experience for local and international visitors from the moment they entered the gardens to the time they leave.

Decisions made through the council’s 2021-31 long-term plan process would determine the timing of Hamilton Gardens’ development, including the proposed layout changes. The council will adopt the long-term plan in June next year.

The council has also applied for the Government’s Covid-19 stimulus funding to accelerate the development of the gardens and connect them with Waikato Museum via the river – however a decision on that proposal is still pending.

Consultation on the new layout closes on Sunday, August 9. An online questionnaire will be available from tomorrow at hamilton.govt.nz/haveyoursay and hard copies will be available at library branches, the Waikato Museum, the council offices and the Gardens Information Centre

The plan will also be available at other spots in the city such as retirement villages and garden centres.

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