Wellington's long-awaited Children's Garden finally set to open, $1m over budget

More than five years after it was first mooted, a new Children's Garden at Wellington Botanic Garden is finally set to ...
SUPPLIED/WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

More than five years after it was first mooted, a new Children's Garden at Wellington Botanic Garden is finally set to open in September.

A multimillion-dollar children's garden, five years in the making, finally has an opening date - albeit after several missed deadlines.

The garden, which will now open in September, was due to be completed early last year.

However, construction was pushed back twice to allow for further funds to be found by the Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden.

Branching out: An oak tree island will be a place for people to survey the garden and for lessons to take place.
SUPPLIED

Branching out: An oak tree island will be a place for people to survey the garden and for lessons to take place.

The latest figures provided by Wellington City Council show the cost of the garden, to the end of phase two, has been $3.1 million – with an estimated $400,000 further required to finish the final phase.

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It's a significant increase from the initial campaign which had aimed to raise $2.5m for the garden, with $1.5m of that for the build and $1m for an educational programme.

Several opening deadlines have passed over the course of the five-year project.
RUBY MACANDREW/FAIRFAX NZ

Several opening deadlines have passed over the course of the five-year project.

While burgeoning costs and delays to the 1500-square-metre project had been unexpected, Wellington City Council's natural environment portfolio leader Peter Gilberd was confident everything was on track for a September opening.

"My understanding is that there were always going to be a number of stages, so things have been changed or altered over the course of the project.

"I visited a few months ago when contractors were finishing off the centre and it was looking great so I think it will be a really good educational resource."

Wellington city councillor Peter Gilberd.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington city councillor Peter Gilberd.

Once open, the space will be used for hands-on activities that help students understand the importance of plants in their lives.

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Gilberd inherited the project from former city councillor Helene Ritchie who still saw the Children's Garden as one of her "babies".

"I really worked hard to get the funding which it has now and I was able to achieve that in a way to ensure that there was unanimous support from the council, which there was."

While burgeoning costs and delays to the 1500-square-metre project had been unexpected, Wellington City Council staff ...
SUPPLIED/WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

While burgeoning costs and delays to the 1500-square-metre project had been unexpected, Wellington City Council staff were confident it would be completed in time for the planned opening later this year.

While she was happy to hear an opening date had been announced, Ritchie said the time it had taken to get to this stage was frustrating.

"It really has taken some time which is why I didn't stand for council again - everything takes too long."

The new garden is the largest significant investment in the Wellington Botanic Garden since the duck pond was built more than 18 years ago.

Former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown and former councillor Helene Ritchie at the official ground breaking in 2016.
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Former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown and former councillor Helene Ritchie at the official ground breaking in 2016.

So far, $1.6m of the total spend had come from council, $1.4m from the Plimmer Trust and a further $250,000 had been raised by the Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden group.

While a final $250,000 still needed to be raised, the garden is due to be finished and officially opened at a Kids' Day Out event on September 30.

However, those keen to get a sneak peek of the garden have the chance on May 28, with a family open day planned from 10am till 2.30pm.

 - Stuff

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