Hamilton Gardens set to be world's best
A series of themed gardens planned for Hamilton Gardens will make it unique in the world and one of the top five garden destinations internationally, says a renowned expert.
And the big winners could be Hamilton's accommodation, hospitality and retail outlets as developments at the gardens are predicted to extend visits to the city.
A council hearing panel that approved the plan yesterday heard feedback on the council's draft Hamilton Gardens management plan including a written submission from a world expert on garden tourism - Central Connecticut State University Professor Richard Benfield.
Prof Benfield said if Hamilton Gardens delivered on its vision of a "uniquely themed garden" it would join the ranks of the top five destination gardens in the world. "This is because the vision . . . is indeed unique in the world, relevant to both casual visitors and educators alike and visually spectacular.
"It has the "wow" factor."
Hamilton Gardens is New Zealand's only design concept garden.
Prof Benfield said development plans for the garden would also benefit city businesses, which could tap into new visitor markets. "This concept is, by far, the most exciting I have seen in my twenty year career as a researcher in the field of garden tourism."
Hamilton Gardens was a key discussion point this week as Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker unveiled a proposal to fast-track development at the gardens and complete five themed gardens and improve visitor facilities within four years.
A key aim of the proposal is to increase the length of visitors' stay at the gardens from the current average of two hours to three to four hours, which would boost the chances of tourists staying overnight in Hamilton.
Outgoing Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Kiri Goulter said Hamilton Gardens was the region's most visited attraction and urged the council to give "the highest consideration and priority" to the garden's draft management plan.
Hamilton Gardens director Peter Sergel designed the individual gardens and remembered visiting the site back when it was a dump full of "blackberry, mud and seagulls".
"To have a top level expert on garden tourism say we've got a concept that is unique and supporting our vision and management plan is fantastic," he said. "Prof Benfield is saying if we go through with the plan for the gardens, people will come to New Zealand to see it."
Not all feedback on the garden's draft management plan was positive however, with Living Streets Aotearoa saying a light-controlled crossing was needed on Cobham Dr or Nixon St for pedestrians and cyclists to safely access the gardens.
Living Streets Aotearoa spokeswoman Judy McDonald said it was difficult for people to value and use a resource they could not get to.
"Now is the time to finally provide sensible safe crossing. Please do it. Then you can offer all the other advantages listed in the plan.
"Until then, it's a mockery."
WORLD'S BEST 2024?
Butchart Gardens – Canada
Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden - South Africa
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain - Australia
Eden Project – England
Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton NZ