Backtrack on zoo garden

GARDEN GONE: Auckland Zoo’s Japanese friendship garden has now been removed.
GARDEN GONE: Auckland Zoo’s Japanese friendship garden has now been removed.

Auckland Zoo's demolished Japanese friendship garden could end up being rebuilt on its original site.

Auckland formed a sister city relationship with Fukuoka in 1986. The garden was a gift from the Japanese city to celebrate that bond.

It was removed in January to make way for a new Tasmanian devil development at the zoo, despite opposition from members of Auckland's Japanese community and other residents.

The zoo's former head gardener Stephanie Hay started campaigning to save it in October and the Friends of Fukuoka Friendship Garden group was formed.

Ms Hay labelled the removal a "huge insult to Japan."

Though Auckland Council consulted with Fukuoka City and was given the go-ahead, Mayor Len Brown later said publicly that the garden should not have been destroyed.

He has formally apologised to Fukuoka city.

On Tuesday the Auckland Council's Sports, Parks and Recreation Committee appointed a steering committee that will decide on a location to re-establish the garden, by August.

Its recommendation is that it should be rebuilt at the zoo, if possible. Work on the Tasmanian devil development is yet to start.

Friends of Fukuoka Friendship Garden members are pleased with the recommendation.

"It's an expectation by Fukuoka and the Japanese community in New Zealand that the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship, in 2016, will be celebrated with the opening of a reinstated garden," group member Ian Henderson says.

"Putting it back on the site would reaffirm that relationship."

It's also likely to be the most cost-effective option given that some of the original features of the garden are still in place, Mr Henderson says.

Central Leader