Sir Michael and Lady Christine Hill, centre, with from left Trust chairman John Dobson, Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker, council funding manager Lucy Anastasiadou-Hobbs, Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel and councillor Margaret Forsyth.
Sir Michael Hill is Hamilton Garden Development Trust's new patron, after being "completely blown away" by a visit to the site.
Hamilton Gardens announced on Wednesday at a private funding function that Sir Michael had accepted the role as the trust's patron. The visit was Sir Michael's first time to the Gardens and he described it as "truly remarkable".
Sir Michael, who is a keen gardener and owner of a 161 hectare landscaped estate, said the popular tourist spot was world-class. "The Gardens are of such significance and I've never seen anything quite like it, and I've been to a lot of places," he said.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said it was great news that the trust will have Sir Michael as the new patron.
Hamilton Garden Development Trust's new patron, Sir Michael Hill
"Sir Michael is a true entrepreneur and his journey to becoming internationally recognised started in 1979, the same year the Gardens launched its unique design concept," she said. "Sir Michael is well-known for his love of gardens and we are thrilled to have him connected to our Gardens in this new role."
In 1979 Sir Michael opened his first jewellery store which has since expanded to more than 300 stores worldwide. However, he said his success stemmed from an unfortunate event. When he was 40, Sir Michael's newly built home in Whangarei was destroyed in a house fire.
"We lost everything; we had nothing, only the clothes we stood up in," he said. "I didn't think I could do anything, but after the house fire that all changed. That stirred me along; it made me realise that I was playing life too safe."
At the same time Sir Michael began developing his brand, Hamilton Gardens began telling the Story of Gardens through themed garden collections, and much like Sir Michael had his "seven stores in seven years" vision, the Gardens have an ambitious plan to create four new gardens in four years. They are currently under construction and include the Concept, Surrealist, Mansfield and Picturesque Garden. Additional courtyards and infrastructure are also included in the development project.
The Trust was formed in 2008 and is about to embark on a fund-raising project to raise $500,000 towards the completion of the additional gardens. So far more than 80 per cent of the $7.03 million development project target has been achieved and Sir Michael said he would be spending more time in Hamilton now he is patron.
"The potential for this place is so exciting," he said. "I think this is the best kept secret in New Zealand, if not the world."
Sir Michael and Lady Christine Hill, centre, with from left, Trust chairman John Dobson, Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker, councillor Margaret Forsyth, council funding manager Lucy Anastasiadou-Hobbs, and Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel.