A proposal to charge non-residents a $25 entry fee to the Hamilton Gardens has been described as a stunt to get people's attention.

The Hamilton City Council debated the entry fee as a part of a 13-hour meeting on Wednesday.

Finally, a motion was passed - seeking a report on how to take Hamilton Gardens into the future and foster its value as a city asset.

The meeting heard councillor Angela O'Leary had put up a Facebook post of Mayor Andrew King's suggested idea of a $25 entry charge to the gardens for non-residents.


She said it received 44,000 views, which she pointed out was 15,000 more people than turned out for the local body elections.

The discussion also attracted nearly 800 comments, showing people's passion for the gardens.

O'Leary said there was a strong community and Kiwi psyche about keeping entry to the gardens free.

She claimed the Auckland War Memorial Museum lost patronage when it introduced a compulsory donation of $5 - even though it continued to be free for Auckland residents.

Councillor Garry Mallett pledged his support for the motion to seek a report, but cautioned the business case must be seriously considered.

"All we're talking about is who will pay for it.

"Will it be the ratepayers who pay for it simply because they happen to own some property in Hamilton, or will it be the people who use the gardens?"

He implied the mayor's suggested $25 charge was "plucked out of the air".


"It was an attention grabber, Garry," said King. "It worked," replied Mallett.

O'Leary presented the private motion and it was agreed upon by all other councillors along with the mayor.

The pending report on the Gardens Project will be prepared by the chief executive ahead of the 2018/28 Ten-Year Plan.

It will cover the scope of the project, the expected budget for each of the themed gardens, time frame for delivery, and options for finding, including considering whether Hamilton Gardens should introduce a non resident entry fee, and how much that should be.

Councillor Mark Bunting said the Hamilton Gardens were an invaluable city asset, and decision makers need to tread carefully.

"It's the one thing that people say good about Hamilton.

"It's the one thing they talk about that I'm proud of, instead of the bogan culture, instead of the chlamydia capital of the country," said Bunting.

"I'm really proud of the Gardens but we're not using it right. What we're doing is saying, 'Right, now let's levy it.' No - let's use it."

He said there should be bus operations established from the free-entry gardens, taking visitors to town, Claudelands, and up and down the Waikato River, encouraging stays in Hamilton rather than people just passing through.

When the motion was carried at the end of the discussion, initiator O'Leary said the idea of an entry fee had not been fully taken off the table but she believed the idea of a $25 charge was effectively gone.