The area at Auckland Zoo where the Fukuoka Japanese garden used to be - and what it looked like with the gardens there. Photo / NZ Herald, Supplied
Auckland Mayor Len Brown is to apologise to the Mayor of
Fukuoka and the local Japanese community for the demolition
of a Japanese garden at Auckland Zoo - a gift from sister
city Fukuoka 25 years ago.
Mr Brown faced a small but rowdy protest at the first council
meeting of the year, but it was a diplomatic issue that got
him off to a bad start with official business in 2014.
The mayor refused speaking rights to the Friends of the
Fukuoka Friendship Garden, whose pleas to retain the Japanese
garden at the zoo he rejected last year.
Mr Brown tried to push the group off to a committee to speak,
but they turned up in large numbers, including prominent
members of the Japanese community, leading to a backdown by
Mr Brown's former mistress and council ethnic adviser Bevan
Chuang has joined the fight to save the garden, calling its
demolition "disgusting" and asking "how we value friendship".
Late last year, the group lobbied Mr Brown and councillors to
stop the garden being destroyed and to keep it intact at the
In a response on December 10, the mayor said he understood
their concerns and was committed to retaining the
"magnificent garden", but sided with the zoo which wanted the
land to house a breeding programme for endangered Tasmanian
No alternative site or funding has been found. The garden was
established in 1989 as a joint sister city cultural project
and opened by Auckland City Mayor Dame Cath Tizard, who backs
the campaign to save it.
Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima wrote to Mr Brown on
December 17 supporting the plan to relocate the garden and
offering help. But after the furore over the demolition last
week, Mr Brown has agreed to apologise to Mr Takashima and
people in Auckland - possibly on Japan Day on February 23.
His office said the apology was "because despite the efforts
made, local stakeholders felt they were not brought along in
Stephanie Hay, head gardener at the zoo in 1989, said bonsai
trees, rocks, the lanterns and entrance gate had been saved
but estimated three-quarters of the garden had been
destroyed. Group spokesman Roy Vaughan said members wanted to
restore the garden and get an apology. People involved in the
garden felt shabbily treated, he said.
Masa Sekikawa, the immediate past chairman of the Japanese
Society of Auckland, said it was devastating to lose the
garden but now it was gone he wanted to know why it happened,
how it would be re-created and how soon.
The matter has been referred to the council-controlled
organisation monitoring and parks committees for
investigation. Mr Brown made a fresh promise yesterday to
relocate the garden.