Wellington Scoop

A new/old idea for the Chinese Garden

With a High Court appeal next month challenging the city’s plans to remake Frank Kitts Park and to build a walled Chinese Garden on part of the park, it’s time to suggest that reverting to the original site for the garden could be a way of avoiding more costly court battles.

Why not move the position of the Chinese Garden back to the place where it was originally intended – on the east side of Te Papa.

If such a compromise could be reached, it would preserve the popular open configuration of Frank Kitts Park and this could be the first step in avoiding further legal costs for both the city council and its opponents.

Opposition to remaking the park and placing the walled garden on part of it has been expressed by 3,212 people who signed a Change.org petition, with many making significant comments urging the WCC to keep the park as it is. Over 1,200 people signed a hard copy of the petition.

On the other hand, official consultation by the Council’s contractor, Resource Management Group Ltd, brought only 240 responses in 30 days, of which only 33 could be described as supporting the redevelopment and only 16 supportong the Chinese Garden being located in the park.

The Chinese Garden was originally to be placed alongside the eastern wall of Te Papa. The space, next to the loading dock at Barnett Street – is still empty.

Back in 1997, the Lambton Harbour Community Consultative Committee supported locating the Chinese Garden in this position on what was to be Chaffers (now renamed Waitangi) Park.

The Wellington Waterfront Framework, produced in April 2001, recommended that the Chinese Garden be located in the same position, and stated “the Group notes that the Chinese community has indicated the area to the east of Te Papa is its preferred location.”

The Capital Times, in an undated article, reported that this site was approved by Esther Fung, secretary of the Chinese Garden Society: “The Wellington Chinese Garden Society were pleased that the project was to be recognised by being placed at Waitangi Park close to Te Papa, as this is a very desirable location.”

In May 2017 Esther Fung’s support for this location was reaffirmed in a Radio New Zealand interview, “The wish was for us to go back to the Waitangi Park but that is not feasible now.”

If the Chinese Garden was built next to Te Papa it would benefit from the annual 1.8 million visitors to the national museum. And it could be bigger – the space is approximately half an acre, twice the area as the controversial 1,500 square metre space on Frank Kitts Park.


  1. Michael Gibson, 20. August 2018, 9:52

    This is an excellent approach.
    By the way, the Environment Court decision (at the urging of four highly-paid lawyers all funded by Wellington City Council, and hence by ratepayers) said that the Chinese Garden was to be known as the “Garden of Beneficence.” I think this was the result of a ploy by some of said expensive lawyers – in any event I trust they will not now try to wheedle out of it.

  2. Nora, 20. August 2018, 16:22

    Thank you Wellington.Scoop for this reminder of the fight to save Frank Kitts Park. Back in the 90s, LHM decided that the two hectares south of Queens Wharf would become a superb landscaped environment featuring tree-lined promenades and sweeping lawns. The mid section of the park was to be remodelled into an amphitheatre, with ramps and steps leading to a raised park. For the youth of Wellington, the “natural” theatre would provide an outdoor concert venue at weekends and on long summer nights. How true – this has happened.
    As for moving the play area closer to the street out of the sunshine into the shade and traffic noise and fumes of Jervois Quay – how crazy.

  3. Rumpole, 20. August 2018, 21:13

    Litigation is expensive and unnecessary. Frank Kitts Park is no place for any garden. The Wellington Chinese Garden Society deserves better. The originally-chosen sheltered site along the eastern wall of Te Papa makes good sense; especially with this land still available.

  4. Alf the Apteryx, 21. August 2018, 8:31

    Wherever and whenever it is built will kiwi be free to roam in the garden, in keeping with Justin and Ms Sage’s masterplan ? Just asking.

  5. Katy Mansfield, 21. August 2018, 10:17

    I think cherry trees will be out since WCC is busy spending ratepayers’ money chainsawing them on Tinakori Hill and pouring valiant on the stumps and all because “exotic is out and native is in”. So Chinese Garden planners be warned. Kowhai and flax with the odd Kaka Beak it shall be.

  6. Michael Gibson, 21. August 2018, 13:51

    Some native trees might be less dangerous than the ones which are planned. My Appeal could even have been unnecessary!
    I am sorry about the Council’s principles being put into practice with the destruction of those lovely flowering cherry-trees!

  7. Cecil Roads, 21. August 2018, 17:03

    The Japanese got away with planting some cherry trees off the Hobson Street Garden for the Blind. They haven’t been tended however and several look dead, as they never got watered during last summer’s drought. I guess that’s WCC’s ‘must be native’ tree policy in action.

  8. Alana, 22. August 2018, 1:35

    WCC Councillors out there – could you make this happen?

  9. Keith Flinders, 23. August 2018, 12:45

    It has been over 20 years since the Chinese Garden saga commenced, but as I remember the history: the then proposed and offered site to the east of Te Papa was contingent upon two buildings being erected there, these being the Transition Building, and to the east of it a carpark building. The Chinese Garden was to be accommodated on top of the carpark building

    When the decision was made to defer/abandon the construction of the above buildings, then the Chinese Garden organisers were offered the Frank Kitts Park location, and they commenced the site specific design for it. The suggestion here on Scoop to revert to the east of Te Papa site will require all the stake holders, Te Papa, WCC, etc., to reveal what they have in mind for the future of this location. Have they been consulted ?

    The area to the east of Te Papa is used as a carpark during the week and as a very popular market at weekends, so therein lies another potential battle if the market is to be reduced in size or removed altogether.

  10. Gerry Maguire, 23. August 2018, 16:46

    Why can’t the Chinese Embassy have a Chinese Garden as part of their new complex?

  11. Trevor H, 23. August 2018, 20:37

    @ Gerry Maguire. Brilliant idea!
    A win-win for everyone.

  12. Farmer Bill, 24. August 2018, 8:42

    Chinese gardens are sprouting up elsewhere in the region. There’s a new one in Masterton which cost ratepayers $70k. It’s small round pavilion I could have built for $10k. And wait there’s more! The tiles don’t work so it will cost even more