Do you agree with the plan to charge visitors to Hamilton Gardens?
City bosses are considering imposing a fee on visitors to Hamilton's most popular attraction.
It is estimated about a million people make their way to Hamilton Gardens every year, and city councillors would like to extract some cash from tourists and out-of-towners.
Councillor Angela O'Leary said not charging tourists entry was "a huge missed opportunity".
"I don't think there would be a councillor around the table that would support [Hamilton] residents being charged entry; they've already paid for the gardens through their rates," she said.
"But I absolutely support charging tourists a nominal $2 charge because the gardens are so spectacular.
"As a city we are quite low-key about advertising our gardens but they are unique. You pay $20 to $25 to get into tourist attractions anywhere in the world so why not value the gardens like they should be?"
The city council spends $2.9m a year maintaining the Hamilton Gardens which in turn generate $740,000 in revenue.
A strategic review of the Hamilton Gardens will be presented to council next year looking at new income and promotional opportunities for the site.
Hamilton residents will be able to continue enjoying the gardens free of charge.
Councillor Daphne Bell said she would not support any initiative which detracted from residents using the gardens but was open to the notion of charging tourists an entry fee.
"Some other cities have a resident's card so there's no charge for residents to a facility. It's an option but it's still something to be looked at and we need to take advise on that."
Japanese exchange students Haruna Okubo and Kanami Ando, visiting the gardens yesterday, described the Indian Char Bagh Garden as "beautiful" and said they would happily pay an admission fee.
Their host, Tamahere woman Jodi Bennett, said many tourists would pay to visit the gardens but said the idea had its drawbacks.
"As a host family taking people to the gardens I would find the idea of paying for entry a bit of a problem. It would be annoying if I had to ask my guests to pay or I had to pay for them. I host about five or six groups a year and I always like to take them to free attractions around the city."
Although general visitor numbers remain strong, the number of bookings at the garden's Pavilion building are down 60 per cent from the five year average.
A council report said the venue faced increased competition from other venues, such as Claudelands, and had experienced a long-term decline in use by garden and craft groups.
Council community general manager Lance Vervoort said the Hamilton Gardens Pavilion operated in a competitive environment.
"Although already one of the region's main visitor attractions, we are keen to generate more business for the venues at Hamilton Gardens, and that's going to be a major focus for the [newly-formed] business development team."
Ms Bell said the drop off in Pavilion booking was "not totally surprising".
"Sometimes event organisers go to the newest place in town or for various reasons like to move their event around. Claudelands has been a major investment for council but we are looking at how to have the gardens as part of what conference organisers look at when they come to Claudelands."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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