Hamilton transformation plan clears hurdle

A proposed shared zone along the northern side of Garden Place has been pitched in the draft Hamilton Central City Transformation Plan (15/12/2015).

An ambitious plan to rejuvenate central Hamilton has passed its final committee hurdle.  The council's strategy and policy committee has recommended the draft document be adopted, despite stinging criticism from some elected members.
The Hamilton Central City Transformation Plan will be presented to the full council next week and includes a raft of measures to transform the central city into a strong commercial centre.
Included in the plan's mix are proposals to shrink the business precinct, boost the number of inner-city townhouses and create an amphitheatre near the Waikato River.
Property Council New Zealand branch president Thomas Gibbons said its 85 members support the draft plan.
Addressing councillors, Gibbons said the council must invest funds into the plan and recommended $50 million be committed over 10 years.
The property council also suggested a central business district board be formed to drive the plan.
"The CBD is a critical part of our city and community, but it's time to have some action and commitment to it," Gibbons said.  "There're a lot of ways to get started, but let's have some boldness, some leadership and some action, so it goes to the next level."
"Fifty million dollars is a figure to show boldness.
"Unless there is some real commitment to doing something, we'll just have another document that sits gathering dust."
Councillor Dave Macpherson was pleased the property council supported the plan, noting the group had sharply criticised the council for spending money on anything other than core business.
Macpherson said the plan has good intentions, but contains no new ideas.
"I don't see this in itself as delivering anything other than a nice set of coloured pictures. It's what happens afterwards that's the difference," he said.
"Just because it's a new council, drawing up a new set of coloured plans, it means the proverbial diddly-squat, in my view."
Councillor Andrew King said the transformation plan undermines the thrust of the city's proposed district plan, which envisaged an expansion of the central city zone.
Rather than spend $50m on central city initiatives, as proposed by the property council, the city would be better to use that money to build a bridge to Peacocke.
The transformation plan artificially borrows ideas from cities around the world, King said.  "This is like watching Back to the Future, with the new-found power of the driver of the DeLorean taking its passengers where they shouldn't go. But sadly, this isn't a movie." 
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker declined to address elected members' criticisms of the plan, saying they had been discussed ad nauseam.
Instead, she said the draft plan had received overwhelming support from a wide cross-section of groups, while the document itself reflected extensive input from a range of experts.
The overall purpose of the transformation plan is to give a framework as to how the central city should be developed.
"It's about saying the central city needs some assistance and giving some direction and focus about what that focus will be, to generate more economic activity [and] commercial activity to enable it to be prosperous," Hardaker said.
Sandy Turner, representing the Hamilton Central Business Association, also spoke in favour of the plan.   She said the central city once served a purpose, but it had become tired and run-down.
Each new central city building or development had a positive impact on its surrounds, creating renewed tenancy interest and a sense of pride.
"It also creates a good story that we can share to help change the perception of Hamilton outside this region," Turner said.
Aaron Wong, spokesman for youth-led organisation Generation Zero, endorsed the plan's focus on encouraging more residential living in the central city.
Generation Zero advocates solutions to help mitigate climate change.
Wong said having more high-density living in the CBD would help address Hamilton's urban sprawl and reduce the number of vehicle trips.

From Stuff.co.nz