Zoo-Waiwhakareke shared entry project takes next step

calendar iconPosted 19 November 2020

Work on an eye-catching new shared entrance for Hamilton Zoo and Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park will begin early next year.

Hamilton City Council’s Community Committee yesterday (17 November) delegated authority to Chief Executive Richard Briggs to award a construction contract for the work, budgeted through the 2020/21 Annual Plan.

The project aims to link the two major visitor attractions to create a conservation precinct to attract, educate and delight locals and tourists alike.

The work is due to start in February 2021 and be completed by December. The Committee also asked staff to find opportunities to better align the project with a planned upgrade of Brymer Road.

The Zoo-Waiwhakareke project includes construction of a new visitor arrival centre for the Zoo and a pedestrian crossing, paths and landscaping to better connect the two destinations.

The new Zoo entrance building will feature a café with an external entrance to attract a broad range of customers. Waiwhakareke will get a new entrance, more paths and a new viewing tower.

The 65.5ha Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is a community-led ecological restoration project. The long-term aim of Waiwhakareke is to reconstruct the natural forest, wetland and lake ecosystems present in pre-European times. The park opened to the public in November 2019.

Future stages of the three-stage shared entry precinct project include new and upgraded car parks and a function and education centre. These are proposed for consideration through the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan. Council will adopt the Long-Term Plan in June 2021.

The Committee also received a research report from Community Waikato on the experiences of local community and social service groups over the past nine months. The sector is playing a key role in supporting Hamiltonians affected by COVID-19.

Community Waikato Chief Executive Holly Snape stressed the continued pressure the sector was under with volunteers “tired”. Funding during the COVID-19 lockdown period, including from Hamilton City Council, was “exceptional”, she said, and encouraged innovation and cooperation.

Snape said the research found the sector felt resilient and groups were better connected and more agile because of the way they worked together through COVID-19. But they were concerned about the security of future funding and the impact of potential future lockdowns on both the community and its support network.

Food, housing, employment and psychosocial health were the main community needs, she said.