The landscape, views, civic buildings, plantings and memorials of Whanganui's Queen's Park make it the equal of some capital cities, Whanganui councillors were told on July 24.
Whanganui District Council's statutory management committee were listening to submissions on a management plan for the central city reserve. It is needed as part of resource consent for the Sarjeant Gallery extension, Mayor Hamish McDouall said.
There were submissions "of great heft" - some of the best he has heard in eight years on council. Councillors were blown away by their quality. They wanted time to let new information "percolate" before deliberating on the plan in August or September.
One proposal is that Queen's Park will take on the name Pukenamu - either as addition or substitute. It means "Sandfly Hill" and is the name formerly used by Māori.
There were 38 submitters in support of the change, and nine against. Supporter Kyle Dalton, speaking for the Returned and Services Association, would prefer a dual name with Queen's Park coming first.
Other supporters wanted Pukenamu to completely replace Queen's Park, and said all Māori sites should be returned to their original names. Opposers said English was more universally understood, they were used to the present name and changing it was disrespectful to Queen Victoria.
Submitters were also concerned about how the "Whanganui story" would be told. Some said there has not been enough iwi input into the plan and suggested co-governance for the reserve. Archaeologists wanted to make sure pre-1900 remains were not destroyed.
Submitter Colin Ogle was disappointed input from the Wanganui Museum Botanical Group had been ignored. He wanted more emphasis on plants, and a themed approach, perhaps focusing on plants local to this area.
He doesn't favour adding more pohutukawa, but would like to add plants once common here but now rare, such as matagouri.
"We shouldn't plant all over the park, because one of its best features is the views. But future plantings should have a bigger scheme in mind," he said.
Submitter Ellen Keene and others asked for improvements to the district library's outdoor courtyard, including fencing and a children's play area.
George Matthews, on behalf of the Whanganui Musicians' Club, supported the reserve's purpose changing from a place for municipal buildings to a place for culture and heritage.
The former Savage Club hall that the club now owns has a special atmosphere visitors love, he said. It's costly to maintain and Cr Helen Craig offered to help the club find funding.
Submitter Richard Reid is a former Whanganui resident who's now an architect and landscape architect, working in Auckland. In 2002 he submitted a plan for the reserve that was narrowly defeated.
His detailed submission took 50 minutes, and he said the reserve's sandhill site, buildings and trees were "globally significant". It needed a comprehensive landscape plan, he said.
Major changes to what council planners have already put forward are unlikely, but there are likely to be additions, enhancements and some more "visionary language", McDouall said.