Community volunteers could end up being the last hope to save Tauranga's Tropical Display House from being demolished.
The city council decided yesterday to seek public reaction on its plan to save $100,000 a year by demolishing the city's botanical gem on Robbins Park, Cliff Rd.
Councillor Rick Curach succeeded in introducing an option that could save the display house. Consultation will allow the option of a community group being formed to carry out the maintenance and operation of the hot house.
At stake was what supporters call a haven of rest and beauty involving tropical and sub-tropical plants as diverse as orchids, begonias, hoyas and banana plants. It was rebuilt at a cost of $55,000 in 2007.
Cr Steve Morris said $100,000 was not a good use of funds when only two people a day were signing the visitors' book. Cr John Robson supported consulting on the closure, saying the theme of the election campaign had been managing council costs. However, he would like to see more evidence of visitor numbers before the final decision.
Cr Matt Cowley said that when it was established in 1954, the display house would have been unique but nowadays most garden centres replicated the facility. "I don't see the value of it in 2015."
Cr Catherine Stewart said it would be sad to see it closed because the display house had given so much to the community. "You will get a lot of push back and you will realise just how much it is valued by the community."
Cr Bev Edlin said she had visited the display house a number of times and had not signed the visitors book.
In other decisions yesterday, the council agreed to go back to the original schedule of mowing reserves after a public backlash at the unusable and unsightly reserves when the council removed $45,000 from mowing budgets. And Ohauiti Reserve could be removed from the list of council-owned properties proposed to be sold because they were no longer needed for future sports parks.
Mayor Stuart Crosby suggested the status of the Ohauiti land could be changed from active reserve to passive reserve through the public consultation process so it was not lost to the community.
The council was also going to consult about selling three farms originally earmarked for sports fields - Smiths Farm (Bethlehem), Merricks Farm (Pyes Pa) and the lower part of Parau Farms (Bethlehem). It hoped to raise about $10 million from the sales.
Cr Morris succeeded by a 5-4 vote to reinstate $10,500 into the McLaren Falls re-vegetation budget after it was dropped to a "very minimal" $5500 in 2008.
Other council decisions going out for consultation were:
-Increase the economic development rate paid by Tauranga businesses to 5 per cent next year, collecting an additional $64,000 above the standard 2 per cent inflation adjustment.
-Shorten the debt recovery period for the $100 million Southern Pipeline by increasing development contribution over the next three years from the current $2840 per lot, to a maximum of $3600 per lot.
-Fund $27,000 as a part contribution to the cost of employing a papakainga (marae housing) facilitator.
-Opposed spending $274,000 a year to lift the wages of the 54 council staff being paid under the Living Wage of $18.80 an hour.
-Deleted the $100,000 from the 2016-17 budget to help fund the Tauranga Moana Museum Trust's resource consent costs to building a museum on the reserve beside Cliff Rd.