Mastermind behind stunning gardens retires

Dr Peter Sergel creating the design for the Trons which are now in the Surrealist Garden

The mastermind behind the world-class Hamilton Gardens, Dr Peter Sergel, is retiring at the end of this year.

Dr Sergel has been a driving force behind the Hamilton Gardens since 1979 when he was asked to develop a concept plan for the park. He had just joined the Hamilton City Council and this was one of the first jobs he was given.

The seeds of success were well and truly sown for the award-winning Gardens and Dr Sergel went on to develop the Gardens’ unique concept of telling the story of gardens throughout civilisation. 

Dr Sergel was appointed Director of the Hamilton Gardens in 1995, but he has been at the forefront of the Gardens’ development and operations for the last four decades, meticulously designing the more than 20 gardens at the site (the only exception being the Te Parapara Garden).

With Dr Sergel at the helm, Hamilton Gardens has grown to become a major visitor destination loved by residents and tourists alike and receiving international recognition, including the 2014 ‘International Garden of the Year Award’. The Gardens receives around one million visits each year including more than 440,000 visitors to the enclosed gardens.

Lance Vervoort, Hamilton City Council’s General Manager Community and Deputy Chief Executive, says Dr Sergel’s outstanding vision and talent for design are simply irreplaceable.

“Dr Sergel has been a force of nature at the Hamilton Gardens. His passion, creativity and ability to inspire others with his vision have made the Gardens the magnificent city and regional asset it is today.”

Back in the 1980s, when Dr Sergel first started out, there was no budget set aside to develop the Gardens, so he worked tirelessly with community groups to raise the funds.  He has set up trusts to fundraise and promote the Gardens and enjoyed a long, productive working relationship with the Friends of the Hamilton Gardens. 

Dr Sergel has also driven other local projects such as the 1980s Riverbank Development Scheme and the redevelopment of Woodlands. He’s instigated several events, the best-known being the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, which he established in 1998 and ran for the first few years before creating the foundation that now runs it.  

Dr Sergel has worked closely with the community to develop Hamilton Gardens into the world-class visitor destination it is today. He leaves some very big boots to fill when he retires as Director at the end of 2020.

Dr Sergel will remain involved in the development of the next few gardens – Ancient Egyptian, Medieval, Pasifika and Baroque Gardens – in a part-time role. 

Mr Vervoort says the Council will be starting the search for a new Director shortly, but it could take some time to find the right person. 

“Given the uniqueness of the role and the calibre of candidate we are looking for, we want to make sure we get the recruitment right.  Also Christmas and the summer holidays are not that far away now, so I expect the process will continue into the first months of the new year.”


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