Hamilton Gardens is proud to partner with the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment which aims to see every New Zealand tourism business committed to sustainability by 2025. We have an ambitious goal to be an industry leader in sustainable management of our site.
Hamilton Gardens has resource consent to draw a set amount of water from the Waikato River each year. We water our gardens during the early hours of the morning and use extensive mulching to minimise water evaporation. During long dry spells, priority is given to keeping plants alive rather than grass being kept green. In anticipation of more long dry summers we are looking at ways to use the on-site lake as a water reservoir and directing most water runoff into that lake.
A new water management system is being developed to control and filter runoff from Cobham Drive and nearby residential areas. This includes a retention pond, narrow wetland on the gully floor and filter planting. Our general aim is that all water entering the site runs back to the river in a clean condition.
Energy use and becoming carbon neutral
Hamilton Gardens has a plan to become totally carbon neutral by 2030. However, we hope to achieve that goal by late 2020 by paying for carbon offsets. An external audit of our current carbon footprint is currently underway, but an initial estimate suggests that we’re using around 122 tonnes of carbon each year.
Good progress has already been made replacing hand-held equipment with electrical devices and a vehicle replacement programme is being developed. All our lighting in our public toilets are on sensors and we’ve installed LED lights throughout our Pavilion. We are also investigating solar panels on our maintenance barns, possibly installing two small turbines on a small stream running through the Gardens and avoiding the need to heat our display houses. The main challenges remaining are the gas ovens in the Café and the lack of a viable bio-diesel option for our mowers.
We provide glass, plastic and paper/cardboard recycling bins so all our venue hirers can separate their waste at their events. All aluminium cans from our rubbish bins are recycled as well as the metal blades from our lawn mowers. Any food waste from our staff goes into our worm farm. All garden waste goes into our mulching operation which last year produced over 1,000 cubic meters of high quality mulch.
We’re currently working with on-site event organisers to reduce their waste. The most successful of these has been Gourmet in the Gardens, a dining event held every Sunday evening over summer. They recycle all their waste and all plates/utensils are washed and reused.
Protecting natural features
The remnant bush on the steep riverbanks below the Hamilton East Cemetery is one of the district’s significant original Waikato seed sources. This stretch of riverbank, referred to as Echo Bank Bush, is managed as an important natural feature of Hamilton Gardens. Management of this flora will follow the policy in the Riverside Reserves Management Plan.
This includes control and removal of all exotic plants, additional planting using only eco-sourced species propagated from local plants, management of the bush so it becomes a self-sustaining unit and public access confined to paths and boardwalks to avoid damage. The on-site plant nursery specialises in locally eco-sourced plants for use through Hamilton’s parks and gullies.
Hamilton Gardens as an important natural link in the river wildlife corridor through the city. Annual planting programmes aim to increase the diversity of fruit, seed and nectar plants to provide a continuity of seasonal food supply for birds. Vegetation overhanging ponds and the lake and river margins are particularly effective in encouraging insects for birds and bats, as well as providing a refuge for water fowl and fish. A lot of our planting is done with food for native birds in mind.
Notable natural fauna within the gardens includes a local long-tailed bat population and several ‘bat roosts’ have been installed for them. Trees that need to be removed (usually for safety reasons) are assessed for the presence of bats before they are felled. Some of the more isolated riverbanks are home to glow worms, and the ponds and lake have long fin eels living in them. Recently more planting such as nettles has been undertaken to encourage native butterflies.
The new long-term plan for Hamilton Gardens includes a proposal to plant another four hectares in native bush and to double the length of the bush walks.
Control of pest species, such as rabbits, wild cats, mustelids, rats, magpies and possums, is an ongoing challenge for Hamilton Gardens. Pest control is fortified around biodiversity hotspots and increased during certain times, such as when tui are nesting. Control of pests is planned as part of a wider strategy for riverside reserves based on the Pest Management Strategy prepared by the Waikato Regional Council. Hamilton Gardens has been working with Landcare, Waikato University and other organisations on new pest control and monitoring systems like GoodNature Co2 rodent and possum traps and Project Ohiti.
The use of residual chemicals is being reduced through the gradual introduction of a more integrated pest management strategy aiming to increase reliance on biological control. However, in Hamilton’s warm humid climate, collections such as the massed hybrid rose display and rhododendron borders mean that some chemical control will be required for the foreseeable future. To minimise negative effects, preference is given to non-toxic substances where there is no effective form of cultural or biological control. Evaluation of alternatives to inorganic, residual chemical pest control will be continued.