At the 2016 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards
Creative New Zealand Excellence Award for Best Creative Place.
Highly Commended: Hamilton City Council’s ‘Community Transforms a City Dump project’.
Hamilton has transformed an old landfill site into the world-renowned Hamilton Gardens. The gardens have been developed over 35 years, with strong leadership from the council, transforming the former city dump into a world-class garden, winner of the 2014 International Garden of the Year title. The gardens were hailed by judges as “a very exciting project with extensive benefits in relation to city pride and economic development”.
Today the gardens attract about a million visitors annually including around 200,000 international visitors. They’re popular with locals too with 85 percent of residents visiting at least once a year. The gardens provide a counterpoint to the city’s lack of natural features such as beach, harbour, mountain or hot pools, or historic buildings.
The gardens provide a setting for a wide range of creative items and activities, ranging from sculpture and different forms of craftsmanship to the many performances and cultural events that are held there. These include the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, the region’s biggest artistic event, opera, outdoor cinema, plays, concerts and gourmet markets. It is also a popular venue for weddings.
The council has taken creative approaches to engaging the community and harnessing resources to create the gardens with limited council funding. It has worked with the community to raise funds, establishing a series of independent trusts. Community and volunteer groups have dedicated thousands of hours, and resources and support has been provided through government-subsidised work schemes.
Continuous research has gone into creating a range of historic garden types, internationally-recognised for their authenticity, with plans underway for four new gardens, three courtyards, a destination playground and information centre upgrade.
This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.