The developers given the heads up about expanding Hamilton's Victoria on the River engaged architects early on in the hope of working with the council on the plans they wanted.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act reveal Foster commercial director Leonard Gardner emailed Hamilton City Council about a proposal for the design work a week after being told of the mayor's vision.

They then met with the council's chief executive Richard Briggs about their plans, but it did not go any further as mayor Andrew King disagreed with their idea to include some buildings in the area.

Hamilton City Council's processes around approaching two property developers Foster commercial director Leonard Gardner and Stark Properties owner Matt Stark about buying properties to expand the inner city park Victoria on the River before any one else are currently being reviewed by Audit New Zealand. The process involves city councillors being interviewed and the council will not confirm when it will be completed.


In an email dated October 6, Gardner forwarded Briggs an email from Auckland-based architect firm Jasmax with a scoping proposal for the area.

"Thanks for the catch up today. What a fantastic opportunity. We are looking forward to working with you, Matt (Stark) and council on this masterplan project," the Jasmax email said.

The email, sighted by the Herald, outlined a brief to create a masterplan for the area between Embassy Park and Victoria on the River consolidating the existing creative precinct and including complimentary activities including an art gallery.

Briggs replied to Gardner's email saying: "Basically we talked about a high level map and some cross out and sketching on. Andrew (King) isn't keen on any activation so we need to push him before we pursue."

When asked about the email, Briggs told the Herald the developers had offered to get some designs for their vision at their cost to pitch to him and the mayor and the council had not been involved in the Jasmax discussions.

"My advice to Leonard was not to pursue anything until they had tested (pushed) Mayor Andrew on whether there could be a compromise."

A meeting in mid-October between Briggs and the developers confirmed there plans were "drastically different" to the mayor's giant park, he said.

So Briggs, with the approval of the council, then commissioned Hamilton-based Edwards White Architects to draw up some designs for the expanded park based on the idea that council would buy and bowl numbers 220 to 266 on Victoria St.


Gardner said he and Stark had only spent about $5000 on preliminary plans for the area to come up with plans as they believed there should be buildings in the area. The did not contract any further work when they realised the mayor disagreed.

"It was really just me and Matt getting some ideas because we disagreed with... the original conversation from the council was a park, purely a green grass park, and that wasn't really the best way to activate that community area there."

Briggs has previously said he only approached Stark and Gardner about their willingness to sell buildings in the proposed area but backed off after learning they had their own ideas, despite being asked by council to approach the 36 property owners in the area.

While Gardner denied knowing anything about the council's plan to expand the park when approached by the Herald in November.

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