After months of outrage, petitions, an election and consultation, a revised plan for the Hamilton Gardens Rhododendron Lawn is being put out to the public again after it was originally scheduled to be turned into a car park.
The lawn is part of one of the Waikato's top visitors destinations and hosts events such as Gourmet in the Gardens and the Sunset Symphony Orchestra. It was under threat of being turned into the main car park to the site to ease traffic congestion.
However, public uproar began and the approval of the Hamilton Gardens Management Plan was put on hold for nearly six months.
Last week the council approved further public consultation on an alternative layout that retains the Rhododendron Lawn and relocates parking to the upper part of the Hamilton Gardens site.
The consultation will take place over one month and will ask whether respondents support the new layout via a have your say survey.
Councillor Mark Bunting says the process of deliberating on the draft management plan, although lengthier than expected, showed how interaction between the community and the council worked best.
"Hamiltonians obviously felt strongly about the Rhododendron Lawn aspect of the draft management plan, so we pushed pause and looked for an alternative.
"We have found one that not only clears up a bunch of issues standing in the way of Hamilton Gardens' development into a world-class attraction but also keeps a very special part of the gardens intact.
"The public of Kirikiriroa care deeply about their gardens so it's important we all step calmly through this next part of the process and the council gets a really clear direction for the future."
The revised layout introduces the potential for a treetop walk down to the gardens entry and shared walking and cycling paths. A new through road would link the two gates, improve traffic flow and allow people to visit the gardens safely on bike, by foot and through public transport.
Council general manager community Lance Vervoort says concentrating car parking in the upper part of the site will free up riverfront land for more appropriate use, including creating a better connection between the gardens and the Waikato River.
"The Hamilton Gardens site is of great significance to mana whenua and further development will closely involve iwi to ensure their aspirations are realised in the choices made about the future shape of the gardens."
The council has applied for Government Covid-19 stimulus funding to accelerate Hamilton Gardens' development and link the gardens with the Waikato Museum via the river. A decision on that proposal is still pending.
Councillors voted 12 to one in favour of public consultation with councillor Rob Pascoe dissenting.