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Botanic Garden team leader Alan Matchett said he and other staff spent much of Sunday in clean-up mode, after discovering alcohol-fuelled revellers had trashed the Mediterranean Garden and band rotunda areas on Saturday night.
The Mediterranean Garden's fountain had to be drained and cleaned on Sunday, while staff picked up the blanket of discarded beer boxes, bottles and cans littering the area.
At least one sign had also been damaged, plants trampled and tree limbs snapped, while plant labels had also been pulled up, he said.
It was the first incident of its type this year, but one of the worst scenes staff had seen inside the garden, he said.
''It was a mess. A terrible mess.''
The damage was still on display when passengers from two cruise ships visited the garden, he said.
''There were people going past and seeing this mess.''
Mr Matchett said security patrols were usually boosted when trouble was expected, such as for St Patrick's Day celebrations on Sunday, but Saturday night's problems ''just caught us completely by surprise''.
The cost, in staff time and the disposal of rubbish, could not be quantified yesterday.
While the damage was disappointing, Mr Matchett was encouraged by the response of University of Otago proctor Dave Scott.
Mr Scott turned up on Sunday to personally help with the clean-up, and asked a group of students to do the same.
He had also asked Mr Matchett for photographs of the damage, and had indicated he would be taking a ''proactive'' approach to trying to identify those responsible.