Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The bridge project Hamilton can no longer ignore

A proposed walking and cycling bridge near Waikato Museum could completely transform Hamilton’s central city, Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor said today.

The ambitious bridge is being promoted by Hamilton Rotary clubs to celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2024.

Momentum Waikato has paid for an initial feasibility report which suggests the bridge over the Waikato River could be built for between $28 to $34 million.

Mayor Taylor, who heads Hamilton City Council’s Central City and River Plan Advisory Group, is championing the project at Council and fronting fundraising efforts alongside Rotary.

He said the bridge could become a Hamilton landmark and that the city has been waiting for a central city pedestrian bridge for decades.

“I can remember way back in 1993 restauranteur Brian Anderson touting a bridge similar to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio with cafes and shops on it. Then in 1999 former Mayor Margaret Evans put up the Millennium Esplanade,” he said.

“Politics got in the way and it never happened. There have been other proposals too. Well this time, with this Council, I really believe we can make it happen.”

In its draft Long-Term Plan, Council proposes investing $11 million into the bridge project, but on the basis the remaining funding is found elsewhere. While Council funding would be capped, a contribution from the city would get the project off the ground, Cr Taylor said.

The rest of the money would have to come from Rotary clubs, corporates or philanthropic trusts.

An initial feasibility report recommends a site between Waikato Museum and Memorial Park. It found that the bridge fits into the Council’s cycling and pedestrian network and could potentially attract co-investment from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“People are drawn to the water and to waterfronts. Well the Waikato River is our waterfront,” Cr Taylor said.

“We’ve ignored it for a hundred years but I don’t think most Hamilton residents will put up with that any longer. It will complement the city’s amazing walking and cycle tracks perfectly.”

Taylor said the bridge was part of a wider vision for a vibrant central city centred around the Waikato Regional Theatre, Victoria on the River, the bridge and a redeveloped Waikato Museum.

Mayor Paula Southgate agreed the bridge would provide the central city with a much deeper connection to the Waikato River and open up the central business district.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to connect the city, and to build something absolutely iconic for Hamilton.  It will provide another option to get across to the city from Hamilton East and what a fabulous way to do it,” she said.

“I sense a lot of enthusiasm around the city for this proposal, it has really lit up people’s imaginations. We are incredibly lucky to have Rotary clubs driving this and to have Momentum Waikato involved and committed at an early stage. When we work with partners, we potentially achieve so much more.”

Council has included the bridge proposal in its draft Long-Term Plan which is now out for feedback. Final decisions will be made once the Plan is locked down in June this year. Before then, Council is undertaking a comprehensive public engagement programme on what it is proposing to spend – and when – over the next decade.

Public engagement on the Long-Term Plan runs until 7 April.

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