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Let's make Hamilton a vibrant host town!

There is no need for Hamilton central to be some sort of modern "ghost" town.

That's not what I want and I am not alone. Too often people tell me that our main street is full of empty shops and run-down buildings, while they find Garden Place, which should be the heart of the city, uninviting. 

We need to do a lot more to create a strong beating pulse in central Hamilton.

I know that people want a central area they can be proud of, a central area that looks great, is a great place for locals to be and attracts tourists! I do too.

Let's be clear - we have some great things going on already, which I love, such the museum and our bustling entertainment precinct and eateries. Victoria on the River was the first real space connecting our city to the Waikato River in decades and is a good step forward, but I think we can- and - should do a lot more to reboot the city.

The 2 hour free parking, at a cost to the ratepayer, appears to be helping, but it is NOT and never will be the golden egg  we need to revive our city.

Hamilton was the highest ranking on Booking.Com last summer, mainly I suspect due to the Rugby 7s and the Hamilton Gardens Festival. We are doing incredibly well in attracting an events and conferences, but there is vast untapped potential.

More must be done to attract people into the central city and other parts of Hamilton, and encourage them to stay. And there needs to be more visitor beds.

Over December and January and some Sundays we just don't see enough people strolling around our city, and some businesses and cafes choose not to be open making the place and the city seem more empty and lifeless - when it is far from that.

Ratepayers, don't have endlessly deep pockets, and we need to be realistic. I love the idea of suburban villages that serve locals. But, I'd like to see us do far more to enliven our inner city and promote in-bound tourism. We need to do our bit alongside others.

Tourism is a growth industry in New Zealand. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment indicates visitor expenditure in the Waikato district has nearly doubled in ten years. Hamilton needs to harness this trend to encourage more visits and stays in the city, and soon!

One key way I think we help re-vitalise Hamilton's city centre for both  residents and tourists alike is by working with business to create more high-quality office space and with developers to create more inner city living. This will help increase the numbers using the inner city regularly and help sustain activities there, such as retailing and entertainment. 

At the moment the area is not well defined. I have to say I love Embassy Park, Cassabella Lane and Victoria on the River, and as Mayor I would encourage and support more places like that.

I do want to acknowledge the developers who have already done,or are doing, some great projects in the city. The Hamilton Central Business District Association has really stepped up to promote a "thriving CBD proposition" and to "activate public space through events". Good on them! 

We as a council have limited resources so let's be smart about how we use them. We need to speed up the development of additional high quality accommodation in, or near, the city centre by fast-tracking the planning and consent process, where appropriate.  We need to open up a discussion with developers about partnering with the council's endowment fund. We must also work closely with key business organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton CBD Association to attract new business to the city and provide what support we can.

Better transport links and a good safety reputation are other keys to revitalising the inner city. Cities should not be made just for cars. Let's make our city  good to walk in, to cycle into or to bus around not only a good place to park your car.

Meanwhile, the new theatre planned for the CBD will further develop connections to our stunning Waikato River. Waikato Museum is already amazing, attracting international and national quality arts and exhibitions, some of which go nowhere else in New Zealand.

In the 10 year plan I pushed to "open up" the back of the museum to face the river and to connect it to the soon to be re-furbished jetty. No luck on that one- yet. But I’ll keep it in the discussion though. 

Imagine a museum connected to the Hamilton Gardens via the river, with a theatre experience thrown in.  We could also do much more to share our rich cultural heritage and the history of our special river. Such ideas are hardly revolutionary, they simply and I believe they are achievable with different city leadership.

We have been told often by Hamilton Waikato Tourism that we need to create more reasons to come here to complement the Gardens. Put simply, we need to offer more to convince tourist, and Hamiltonians to linger in our city. That is why I supported the new regional theatre, the Waikato Museum, Lake Waiwhakareke and the Zoo developments. We should also work with our neighbouring councils to create wider advantage, after all we have so many wonderful offerings, such as Zealong and the Avantidrome a stones throw from our city boundary.

Let’s also build upon our already iconic events such as the Hamilton Garden Arts Festival, Balloons over Waikato, Boon Street Art Festival and support emerging events like the Chinese Lantern Festival and Children’s Day. We do events well and we make both Hamiltonian's and visitors more aware.

In summary, we must keep improving the experiences people have in the inner city and Hamilton. It makes sense generally, for both our quality of life and for the economic health of our city.

We have spent too long talking about some of this this, now is the time for more action. As Mayor revitalising central Hamilton will be key priority area for me. Let’s not let another three years pass before we see real progress.

Tourism policy can be found here: https://www.paulasouthgate.co....



 

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