Garden is going into storage
Auckland Zoo plans to remove a Japanese garden gifted by a sister city 24 years ago to make way for Tasmanian Devils.
Former head gardener at the zoo Stephanie Hay says the move is an insult to Japan and the people who were involved in the garden's design.
The garden was built in 1989 in recognition of Auckland's relationship with Fukuoaka city.
Parts of it will be put into storage and may be reinstated elsewhere.
"I think it's a huge insult to Japan. It was given as a precious cultural gift. They sent their expertise, they didn't just send lanterns," Mrs Hay says.
"It's taken 24 years for it to get to that state and to be that beautiful.
"It's part of the zoo's history. It's loved by the public, volunteers and lots of the zoo staff."
Mrs Hay keeps in touch with the Japanese master gardener behind the design. Auckland Council has consulted Fukuoka officials and say they've been given approval to go ahead.
"Anyone who knows anything about Japanese culture would know they won't say no. I believe it is hugely insulting no matter what the Japanese say publicly.
"Personally I have my doubts that there will be another garden. A lot of things go into storage and never come out."
A date for the removal hasn't been finalised.
"I would really encourage people to go and see it. I think once people see it they will realise what is being lost."
An Auckland Zoo spokeswoman says the Japanese garden is in need of substantial repair.
The Tasmanian Devil development is part of a wildlife conservation programme that is of strategic significance for the zoo, she says.
"In addition, the zoo does not hold any Japanese animal species, nor have any involvement with programmes for Japanese species."
Auckland councillor John Watson shares Mrs Hay's concerns.
"I would like to see the garden retained in its current position.
"It's certainly a very valuable piece with cultural significance.
"The notion of somehow packing it up and moving it somewhere else seems a little inappropriate given the manner in which it was given.
"Secondly, the vague notion that it will be replaced at some point in some place in the future doesn't fill me with confidence."