A change of plan for Chinese garden

A 2016 concept drawing of a Chinese garden. Image: Southland Express files

INVERCARGILL City councillor Karen Arnold has questioned just what the city is now getting with a scaled-back Friendship Garden at Queens Park.

As part of the 2016 long-term plan, councillors agreed to construct a Chinese garden at Queens Park.

The garden would acknowledge the sister city agreement with Chinese city Suqian.

The introduction of the Chinese garden comes 24 years after a Japanese garden was constructed at Queens Park in honour of the sister city agreement with Kumagaya.

The project comes at a price tag of $600,000, with landscaping and the construction of a pond well under way at the site. The council is now in a position to order kitset structures from a Shanghai company.

However, to remain within the $600,000 budget the parks and reserve department has had to scale back the original plans of the garden, which will be constructed near the aviary.

The “cultural corridor” shown in the original artist’s impression has been scrapped.

However, the garden will still include a “waterside pavilion” and “moon gate”.

When asked at a full Invercargill City Council meeting on Tuesday, parks and reserves manager Robin Pagan said the scaling back equated to about a 45% reduction of the original plan to ensure the project remained within budget.

Cr Arnold asked whether getting “half” of what had originally been planned was actually worth it.

Cr Lindsay Thomas said he would like to see updated plans as to what the city was now getting, because he didn’t want to end up with just a “duck pond”.

Cr Lloyd Esler jumped into the debate.

“What a bunch of negative people we have around this table,” he said.

He said the Chinese garden would be a wonderful addition to Queens Park and he was comfortable the scaled-back version would still be a good asset.

Cr Ian Pottinger said he visited Dunedin’s Chinese garden at the weekend and was confident that where Invercargill’s garden would be situated, it would make for a popular attraction for the city.

He asked Mr Pagan if there was room in future to reintroduce some of the structures that had been ditched, if the council believed it would be beneficial and if the money was available at a later date.

Mr Pagan said that could be done.

So far about $54,000 of the budget had been spent.

As part of the sister city agreement, a New Zealand garden is also expected to be constructed in Suqian.

Meanwhile, a motion to seek legal advice about the closure of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery was shot down at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Cr Allan Arnold put a motion forward that the council request legal counsel to seek clarification that if signage at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery, declaring the building as earthquake prone, would discharge council’s legal obligation.

After robust debate the motion was voted against, 11-1.

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