Ratepayers are confused and unhappy, and why wouldn't they be? On the one had they are told that we are using debt to run everyday Council business, and that we need to aggressively grow our City to provide new homes. Another message is that there is little money to improve our parks, playgrounds, libraries, museums and community facilities. And yet we are presented with new or unexpected ideas (such as purchase of private property to expand central city parks) that, while they might have merit, will cost millions.
I know we have not got the finances to do everything, especially if the main focus is growth. We will have to make choices.
I have been thinking how we might do more for the City for less money. Could we find cost effective ways to make our city more lovable and livable? The renewal of Cities is a global trend. Tired spaces are being reinvented, urban designers and local communities are taking control of their future. Putting people as the main focus, not structures, is empowering and re-vitalising the social, cultural and economic well-being of many cities. Do a bit of a search and you will happen across images like this:
Interesting street furniture. The following image is Auckland.
Farmers markets and interesting food zones also work. People like to mingle and be social.
It seems to me really revitalize you must be brave and try new things, learn from other places and select actions that are affordable and excite partnership and participation.
I am not an urban designer, not artist, nor performer. I am a politician. To me, good political governance would be to ask that staff and the public work together to find some win-wins, to enable renewal in our city. Public participation is key, silo thinking and limited consultation leaves people behind and not wanting to buy in even if a project has some good aspects. I do not consider asking people what hey think when the design is complete, and the thinking all done, to be good community engagement. Nor is giving little attention to existing plans ( the public had input into) to make way for new ideas.
However, Hamilton is already a great place to live. While there are tired parts ( that need renewal and maintenance) there are great strengths. I will be pushing for building on strengths and finding low cost ways to add some extra spark and passion to our City. I very much look forward to public feedback, Experience tells me that that is where good ideas get started.
Can simple like this work for us? Not to replace other playground plans but perhaps as low cost improvements to other public spaces?
Small things can add value to a city when done properly and that they need not cost the earth. The plain truth is we do not have the money right now to do grand! The ratepayer can't afford it. But we do have and abundance of creative, generous and passionate people. We can progress if we use our resources wisely.
The simple pavement treatment below along with others is not uncommon in re-vitalized public spaces overseas. Also here in NZ I have seen children entertained by simple wooden pools, low walls, sculptures, mini trampolines and automatic bubble machines.
Hamilton already has many example of success; Embassy park and Boon Street Festival, We also have fabulous eateries an NZ's longest, historic and natural treasure, the Waikato River. We have a good amount of green spaces looked after by many volunteers. This is a great starting place. Let's not say no to everything but rather ask what is possible here?
People are playful and inquisitive and we need to focus on place-making that encourages play and connection.