Plans for city worthy

An annual task for the Hamilton City Council is preparing a draft annual plan, then weighing the merits of public submissions.

Last year, 81 submissions were made. They came from individuals as well as corporate heavyweights like Fonterra and Mighty River Power. The Friends of Hamilton Public Library Association wanted more library money. Several submissions objected to a proposal to lop the public art fund to pay for litter collection.

Hamilton Gardens Development Trust chairman John Dobson was disappointed only $5000 was set aside to develop the Fantasy Garden. Mr Dobson reminded the council of Hamilton Gardens' immense benefits to the region and that they attract more than 1.2 million visitors a year. He noted the Christchurch Botanic Gardens was to have a $16.4 million visitor centre, South Taranaki District had approved $6m for its parks and Dunedin City had started work on a $6m development, including glasshouses and an education centre.

The council is geared up to adopt its 2014/15 draft annual plan later this month and to call for public submissions early next month.

The plan will include a programme for development of the botanic gardens, pending successful lottery applications for funding the balance of the work. The council will chip in a third of the development costs, to be funded by a $10 targeted rate over the next four years on every rateable property.

Some citizens are bound to complain, but the project is a worthy one. Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker - re-emphasising the council's aim to balance its books by 2017 - says the council's financial position is tracking better than planned thanks to tight budgeting in recent years.

Civic leaders now can build on the city's assets "and start reinvesting in the things that matter to Hamiltonians". The projects she has identified do matter - or should.

They include additional services for increasing safety in the CBD and the River Plan, to increase the city's focus on the river. A proposal to allow under-fives to swim free at council pools - championed by Councillor Ewan Wilson during his bid for the mayoralty last year - has been included in the draft plan, too. Parents visiting Waterworld this week were delighted.

Things are going swimmingly for supporters of the Gardens and River Plan, too.

Waikato Times