Friday, January 01, 2010

Wrangle over site for Chinese garden

Councillors knock back donors' preference for Auckland Domain or Western Springs

An $8 million traditional walled Chinese garden planned for Auckland has become a political headache instead of a place of spiritual escape.

The Auckland Chinese Garden Steering Committee's preferred sites of the Domain or Western Springs have been knocked back by the Auckland City Council.

The steering committee is made up of 12 prominent Chinese representatives and is co-chaired by architect Ron Sang and community leader Kai Luey.

The council's arts, culture and recreation committee likes the idea of a central 3000sq m to 4000sq m Chinese garden on park land, just not at the duck pond area in the Domain or at Western Springs.

Gaining resource consent for the Domain, an archaeological and geological site of significance, is considered extremely problematic. Western Springs is thought to be too heavily used informally and for events such as Pasifika.

On the recommendation of open space planner Joseph Zou, the councillors have suggested a site on the 4.5ha headland park at the Tank Farm that is still 10 to 15 years away; a 2700sq m site in Cook St, bought by the council in 2008 and leased to Placemakers; or the western side of Victoria Park once the tunnel to widen the Northern Motorway bottleneck is completed by 2013.

Mr Sang said support from Auckland's 110,000-strong Chinese community for a garden had been excellent, but the council had given the steering committee something it was not happy about.

"I don't want to go to all this effort and find they give me a site that is not very good."

Mr Sang said the committee would consider the council's position and get back to it. "Anything to do with the council takes time."

The project, he said, would probably require five years of fundraising and three years of construction. A preliminary budget of $8 million includes $1 million from the Chinese community, $1 million from local government, $4 million from central Government, $1 million from community trusts and $1 million from Auckland City's sister city in China, Guangzhou, and overseas Chinese.

It is envisaged the garden would be on a similar scale to the Dunedin Chinese Garden, which opened last year to commemorate the contribution of Chinese people to the city, from the days of the Central Otago gold rush in the 1860s.

The Dunedin garden, covering 2500sq m and costing $7 million, was designed as a late Ming/early Ching scholar's garden, largely prefabricated in Shanghai and reassembled on site. It is centred on a large lake surrounded by several structures with an elaborate archway and 4m perimeter wall.

4:00 AM Wednesday Dec 23, 2009 By Bernard Orsman

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