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Work on a striking new entrance to connect Hamilton Zoo and Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is entering its second stage, as parts of the new entry building open this week.

The project is part of a wider vision to combine the two much-loved sites and create a premier wildlife destination for the city.

Parts of the new building – including the retail space, toilets and reception – will open to visitors on Thursday (16 December), with a fresh new look and feel.

Mayor Paula Southgate said it was an exciting milestone to celebrate, just in time for summer holidays.

“The Zoo is much loved but we know there are parts that are in need of some love and repair. It’s a major tourism asset for our city and we need to keep investing in it. It is our responsibility to look after all the city’s special places,” she said.

“So this is just the start of that investment and it’s really exciting that the first part of the project is complete just in time for summer. And of course, this is just the beginning of a much wider, exciting project. By connecting these two treasured places, we’re creating a world-class wildlife destination right here in Hamilton. We can showcase our beautiful natural world and inspire future generations to learn about it.”

Hamilton City Council Elected Members and Maangai Maaori celebrated the opening with a blessing of the new building.

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is a flagship project for biodiversity in the city, and the Hamilton Zoo is kaitiaki to about 600 native and exotic animals. Council’s Zoo Waiwhakareke Shared Entry Precinct Project, funded through the 2018-28 Long-Term Plan, will help streamline access between the two sites.

The next milestone for the precinct will be the opening of a new café in February, followed by the precinct’s new playground shortly afterward.

Community Committee Chair Councillor Mark Bunting said it was exciting to see progress with the long-awaited project.

“Our Zoo team are very excited to finally have such a great gateway to the place they’ve put so much of their hearts into. I can’t wait to enjoy a snack and coffee next year in the café.”

Construction for the Shared Entry Precinct is scheduled to be complete by October 2022.

“This is a clear sign that we’re serious about our nature precinct being a world-class attraction. This entranceway says to the rest of the country and hopefully soon the rest of the world – get here and stay the night in our city. If you love the Hamilton Gardens, you’ll love what we’re building just up the hill!”

Stage two of the project begins this month and will focus on creating better access between the two sites. This will involve upgrading and urbanising Brymer Road (between Baverstock Rd and just north of the Zoo), upgrading the car parks, improving bus facilities, and delivering safer access to the site for pedestrians and cyclists.

Council wants to ensure Hamiltonians enjoy a connected, vibrant, attractive, and prosperous Rotokauri-Northwest community. Work is being done to ensure we can plan and deliver great wellbeing outcomes for the Rotokauri-Northwest neighbourbood that will one day be home for up to 20,000 people.

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