Tom Rowland is a Hamilton News reporter.

Support in Hamilton for destination playgrounds grows

Hamilton City Council with Mayor Andrew King in the chair get down to the business of discussing a new 10-year plan for the city.
Photo / Tom Rowland
Hamilton City Council with Mayor Andrew King in the chair get down to the business of discussing a new 10-year plan for the city. Photo / Tom Rowland

More than 1800 people have signed to save Hamilton's Destinations Playgrounds project after its axing in Mayor Andrew King's proposed 10-year plan.

The plan drops the development of further Destination Playgrounds but puts aside $3m capital expenditure and $1.27m operational expenditure to deliver new or upgraded local playgrounds over 10 years.

Mayor King told Hamilton News last week that the council had been neglecting building more neighbourhood playgrounds due to the expense of Destination Playgrounds.

The news about axing Destination Playgrounds was met with shock by supporters of the Save Hamilton's Destination Playgrounds Facebook page led by local mother and journalist Angela Cuming.

"My initial reaction was oh my god it's even worse than I thought. No money for Destination Playgrounds," Mrs Cuming told Hamilton News

She said the support the page received was overwhelming.

"I've had letters and emails from all over the world in support of our campaign."

"Letters from children are the most inspiring and the most heartbreaking. One thing that has struck me is support for the playgrounds has come from such a cross section of the community, the young and old, parents, people without kids, grandparents, teachers and students. It has been wonderful to see everyone in Hamilton pull together for a common cause."

When it met on Wednesday, Mrs Cuming and other members of the public spoke to the full council about their concerns.

She spoke on behalf of her kids and read out a letter which had been sent to her from a seven-year-old in Hillcrest.

Another Hamilton resident, Max Johns also addressed the meeting, saying Destination Playgrounds were where he met some of his first friends in Hamilton and spoke in defence of the playgrounds.

"If you don't want to grow one of the biggest assets you have when it comes to changing minds and winning hearts then you have a bad 10 year plan in front of you," Mr Johns said during the public forum part of the meeting.
"I think given the vote margin that he turned up with and the plans put in front of you it is probably quite reasonable to expect we've got a one term mayor in this city right now," he said.
Later, Mr Johns was threatened with being ejected from the council chambers by the mayor when he spoke out from the public gallery.
Mrs Cuming is hoping that the council will listen and reinstate the Playgrounds of the Future plan.
"I am hoping that from the council meeting the mayor and councillors really listen, I mean really listen to us, because we are giving a voice to the children of Hamilton. Ideally I'd like to see the mayor reinstate the Playgrounds of the Future plan and scrap that bloody stupid Garden Place redevelopment," Mrs Cuming told Hamilton News.
"Build playgrounds not carparks."
CEO Richard Briggs released a statement during Wednesday's meeting after Angela Cuming had made a presentation in support of the playgrounds.
The statement said an article Mrs Cuming wrote for the media publication The Spinoff was inaccurate.
"It is disappointing that a media organisation such as The Spinoff has published a substantial article, under the headline 'UNICEF outraged by Hamilton mayor's anti-playground budget' without fact-checking the statements the article is based upon," Mr Briggs said in his statement.
Virginia Gray speaking on behalf of the Friends of the Gardens asked councillors to maintain Hamilton's Garden free entry.
"The gardens have been built on goodwill and the generousity of many," Ms Gray said.
"It should not be seen as a commercial empire but a happy place for people, which is surely a motivation for garden creators throughout civilisation.
The council will spend Thursday and the next several weeks discussing the 10 year plan before it is put out to public consultation next year.
The plan is not signed off until July 2018.

- Hamilton News

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