Hamilton Mayor Andrew King says he's been telling property owners along Victoria St for months or even years to offer their buildings to council to buy first.

King said the plan to expand the central city park Victoria on the River by buying and bowling buildings between Victoria on the River and Embassy Park was part of his vision and political view and had never been "secret squirrel stuff".

"I've always said to anybody who owns any property in there that I hope they buy into my vision and if there's ever anything for sale that I hope they would offer them to the city before they put them on the market.

"This is something I've been saying for the last month, the last six months - this is something I've been saying for a long time."


When asked why his "vision" to buy and bowl a block of buildings between the new inner city park and Embassy Park was discussed in the public excluded meetings of council if he had been openly talking about it, King said it was so staff could approach property owners about whether they would sell which then became a negotiation.

King said he had never specifically sat down and discussed his idea with Matt Stark or Leonard Gardner - the only two men approached by the council's boss last year and asked about their willingness to sell - but had generally said to any of the property owners in that area that he hoped they would give the council first option to buy it when they were ready.

"I've taken councillors down there and shown them a piece of land and said we shouldn't be putting a commercial building down here, we should be putting a park on here.

"I've said those buildings over there we should be buying, we should be demolishing. And open them up as part of the river building."

Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs said he had not contacted two of the property owners - Stark or Gardner - about it until the council gave him a mandate in September to approach property owners about their willingness to sell. He met with them the next day.

Briggs told the Herald once he realised Stark and Gardner had their own vision for the area, which the Herald earlier revealed has led them to set up a company called VOTR2 WRT to purchase buildings in the area, he backed off as he did not want to "create competitive tension" when he had no authority to buy buildings. He has now asked Audit New Zealand to review the process.

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