Hamilton's CBD/River-side Central Park budget trimmed

Mayor Andrew King's central park plan will go ahead with a trimmed budget.

A Hamilton central park by the river has been approved by the majority of Hamilton City Councillors, after a budget trim thanks to councillor Geoff Taylor.

The central park plan involves buying and demolishing a block of buildings on Victoria Street to open the city up to the river. The original budget was $20 million in the first five years of the 10 year plan.

However, on Thursday, Councillor Geoff Taylor proposed slashing the $20 million to $12 million to ease pressure on the budget. Mr Taylor said he understood that $12 million would be enough to purchase at least three of the properties.

CEO Richard Briggs said during the meeting that four of the building owners at the north end of the plan were willing to sell, but he said no one who owns a property there will be forced to sell.

Council was given a design presentation before voting on the park. The designs were put together by architect Brian White, who is also responsible for the proposed Garden Place development.

Mr Taylor said the trimmed budget reflects a more conservative take on the project.

"As soon as I saw this project I thought that has real potential," Mr Taylor said. "For me this vision has the potential to make a fundamental statement about river's relationship with the city."

"I'm mindful about the financial pressures, which why I've put up this alternative figure."

Councillor Mark Bunting said he was a sucker for visions but believed the timing had come at the wrong time.
Artist impression of the new Hamilton CBD park
"I think the timing is 100 per cent wrong. We are about to slam people with a 15.5 per cent rate rise and we are about slam them with a 10 per cent fuel tax," Mr Bunting said.

Councillor Paula Southgate was not happy that the project had started without any consultation from the public to begin with.

"This is the wrong time to add an unexpected project from the public's point of view," Ms Southgate said. "I just think it is wrong and all shades of wrong to have a new project with this amount of dollars."

Councillor Angela O'Leary said that Ms Southgate was right about how the council was approaching the new project.

"We were told back in March that there was a big, dark financial cloud heading our way and now we are faced with a new motion. This is still a $30 million hit on the books," Ms O'Leary said.

Councillor James Casson questioned again if the council was even listening to the ratepayers.

"I think if you vote for this you would be wandering around with blinkers on and ear plugs in," Mr Casson said. "It makes me quite angry that we are actually even voting for something like this at the moment when we are facing a 15.5 per cent rates increase."

Councillor Leo Tooman backed Mr Bunting, saying the timing was not right.

"People will go to the cafe and put their eftpos card into the machine and it will be declined because they had to pay a 15.5 per cent rates increase," Mr Tooman said.

Councillors voted 7-5 to put the plan out for public consultation as part of the long term plan. Those in favour were Mayor King, Deputy Mayor Gallagher and councillors Taylor, Mallett, Macpherson, Henry and Bunting. Those against were Councillors Casson, O'Leary, Pascoe, Southgate and Tooman.

From the Hamilton News