Plans for the Waikato Expressway's eastern bypass of the city has caused concern for Hamilton's council and they have drawn up two new plans to tart up parks, gardens and gullies to make the place more appealing to travellers.
A Hamilton Gardens 10-year strategic plan and a 50-year Open Spaces plan will be presented to the strategic and policy committee tomorrow. Both documents aim to make the city more attractive to residents and visitors.
Hamilton Gardens director Peter Sergel said a garden makeover would be desperately needed in the near future.
"In 2019, State Highway 1 bypasses the city and we've got to think why would people turn off when they are less than an hour from Auckland," he said.
"It's important they do, for our visitor industry and our events industry - they are inter-related, and part of the solution, council feels, is Hamilton Gardens."
Mr Sergel said access to the gardens across Cobham Drive was a "big issue" and the plan included more public events, better roads and walkways for pedestrians and the disabled, tour packages and improved links to the Waikato River.
"Hamilton East is becoming increasingly high density and they don't have a lot of parks and that's an issue for them," Mr Sergel said.
But tourists skirted around the city in favour of the Waitomo Caves and Matamata's Hobbiton, said Craig Muntz, director of Hamilton-based Aotearoa Experience, and an upgrade at the gardens would only attract visitors if the market demanded it.
"Tourists have been bypassing Hamilton for decades for Waitomo, then they head to Rotorua," he said.
"You've got to give them stronger purpose to stay in this region so you have to understand what the drivers are that are providing them with the motivation to bypass Hamilton"
He said Hamilton was well placed to host visitors overnight but there was a lack of drawcards that would keep them in the city during the day and poor marketing of the region's features.
"We have a casino which is a late-night option but what we don't have is enough product to actually keep them here during the day, or to compete against product in Rotorua, for instance.
"What is it in Rotorua or elsewhere that attracts them and can we develop product to meet those needs here?"
Parks and Open Spaces manager Sally Sheedy said the 50-year vision for Hamilton's parks and open spaces would meet the needs of the city's population growth and enhance visitor experience.
Hamilton has more than 1000 hectares of open space, around 14 per cent of the city's land. It included reserves, parks, gully systems, peat lakes, civic spaces, walkways and streets.
Population statistics suggest Hamilton's population would increase to 230,000 by 2061, with more than 20 per cent of residents above the age of 65. The number of people taking regular part in recreational activities was expected to rise.
"There is a specific goal relating to understanding, protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity and another goal is our open spaces are accessible, connected and make Hamilton easy to get around," said Miss Sheedy.
Priority work included the protection and restoration of Hamilton's gully systems and the protection of the Waikato River.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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