Community volunteers may end up being the last hope to save Tauranga's Tropical Display House from being demolished.
The city council decided today 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 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 that was currently done by a contractor.
Councillor Steve Morris said $100,000 was not a good use of funds when only two people a day were signing the guest book.
Councillor 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.
Councillor 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."
Councillor Catherine Stewart said it would be a 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."
Councillor Bev Edlin said she had visited the display house a number of times and had not signed the visitors book.
In other decisions today, 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 out for consultation to sell 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.
Councillor 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 were:
- Increase the economic development rate paid by Tauranga businesses to 5 per cent next year, collecting a further $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.
- Increase council's contribution to attract major events to the city over the next 10 years from the $325,000 in the current 2014-15 year to nearly $1.3 million in 2024-25.
- Fund $27,000 as a part contribution to the cost of employing a papakainga (marae housing) facilitator.
- Pay $566,000 to build a tsunami evacuation refuge on Papamoa's Gordon Spratt reserve, involving a big mound.
EARLIER: Demolition threatens Tauranga's botanical gem and haven of rest and beauty, the Tropical Display House in Robbins Park.
The future of the display house next to the Rose Gardens in Cliff Rd was due to be discussed by Tauranga City Council today, with the prospect of going out for public consultation on a proposal to close the hothouse.
The 61-year-old window on fauna as diverse as begonias, orchids, hoyas and banana plants was rebuilt by the council in 2007 at a cost of $55,000, with the entrance upgraded in 2010.
A report to today's meeting said operational costs associated with the display house were significant and closure, once the current maintenance contract expired in 18 months, would save $100,000 a year.
Visitor numbers were not recorded, although anecdotal evidence through the visitors' book suggested it was low.
The news that it could be demolished has shocked orchid society enthusiasts and the council's former parks co-ordinator, Ned Nicely.
Mr Nicely said a lot of people enjoyed the display house. It was warm in winter and formed part of a wider area of interest that included the Monmouth Redoubt, the Rose Gardens and The Elms.
He said visitors liked the calming effect when they entered the display house, with its trickling water and beautiful plants. "It is a place of respite. We have something to be proud of."
Mr Nicely said it was not a waste of money and once it was gone it would never be replaced. The idea of closing it showed the council lacked empathy. "They are so balance sheet orientated that they don't talk sense any more. We need places like that."
He said the display house was set in an area with great views near The Strand and was safe because of its nearness to the police station.
Tauranga Orchid Society secretary Natalie Simmonds said she would be disappointed if it was closed, saying it was mind boggling how beautiful orchids could be. Many of the orchids had been donated by society members.
Wilma Fitzgibbons of the Bay of Plenty Orchid Society had strong sentimental links to the display house, with fond memories of going there as a child with her grandmother.
She said the council needed to generate more public interest in the display house because it would be sad to see it demolished.