Police to review Chinese Garden findings

Visitors at the Chinese Garden yesterday.
Visitors at the Dunedin Chinese Garden.
Police will review the findings of an investigation into how items from the Dunedin Chinese Garden were found in a second-hand store.

The Dunedin City Council launched the investigation late last year after authentic surplus items from the garden were spotted in a  shop in South Dunedin.

A council spokeswoman said the internal investigation had been completed and a summary of the file had been given to the police to review. While the file was being reviewed, the council would not be commenting further, the spokeswoman said.

The council is yet to  say how many items, which were being stored off-site at another council-owned building in Tahuna, were missing.

Former head gardener Ian Melvin has been vocal over his frustration at the apparent lack of action from the council, but said he was happy the police were now involved.

Items stored in the off-site building included marble, roof tiles, lamps and furniture, all shipped from China during the garden’s construction, he said.

Mr Melvin, who retired at the end of last year, said he thought the items retrieved by the council from the shop were only a small fraction of what was missing.

He said he understood the monetary value of the missing items was significant — possibly in the six figures — but the cultural value was much higher.

Questions have previously been raised about how long it took the council to act on advice about the missing items.

But Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he had personally sought assurances the situation was being handled correctly and was satisfied council staff had started  the investigation as soon as the items were discovered.

Mr Cull said he was unable to discuss the findings but  there would be some lessons for the council  from the investigation.

"We’ve probably already learnt a few things about how the situation might have been better," he said.

Reports had also been regularly been given to the  council’s audit and risk subcommittee.

Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust chairman Malcolm Wong said he had not seen the findings of the council’s investigation so  was not in a position to comment.

It was in everyone’s interest the investigation was as thorough as possible and completed in a timely manner, Mr Wong said.

The trust had been focused on the 10th anniversary of the garden but he hoped it would be given an update on the results of the investigation soon.

A police spokesman was unable to confirm yesterday when the summary had been handed to police and what action, if any, would be taken.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

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