An Auckland Japanese community leader is comparing the Fukuoka Friendship Garden to a phoenix "rising from the dead".

The original garden was gifted to the former Auckland City Council by Fukuoka following a 1986 signing of a sister city agreement.

There was an uproar, which became an international incident, when it was decided four years ago that the garden would be "uplifted" to make room for a new Tasmanian Devil exhibition.

In 2014, the council resolved that the then-Mayor Len Brown apologise to the people and Mayor of Fukuoka City, and to Auckland and the Japanese community at the Japan Day event in Auckland.


A restored Fukuoka Garden was officially opened today at its new location in Western Springs Lakeside Park.

Masa Sekikawa, adviser to the New Zealand Japan Society, says the community is thrilled.

"It is really like a phoenix rising from the dead, and has become something bigger and more beautiful than the original one," Sekikawa said.

"We were really upset at the original decision to destroy the garden, but thrilled that something good has come out of it."

The garden replaces the original one built in Auckland Zoo.

The garden's unveiling was celebrated with a ceremony attended by Mayor Phil Goff, Mayor Takashima of Fukuoka City, mana whenua, representatives from Fukuoka and Auckland Council and members of the Friends of Fukuoka Friendship Garden.

Goff said the council had worked closely with the city of Fukuoka to re-establish the garden.

"The Fukuoka Garden recognises the strong bond between our two cities and it's great that we can join together today to celebrate a wonderful gift to our city and an important relationship that brings our cultures closer together."

The new garden, which is 2.6 times larger than the original and free for people to enjoy, has a tea pavilion, waterfall and pond.

There are more than 1800 plants that are a blend of native New Zealand and Japanese species.

Some features of the original garden have also been incorporated into the new garden including four bonsai trees, paving stones, lanterns, a water basin and the entrance feature.

Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward councillor Cathy Casey chaired the steering group which oversaw the project, and has been a strong advocate for the garden's restoration.

"The project has been a real joint effort and has helped to build even stronger ties between the city and people of Fukuoka," Casey said.

"Ultimately, we now have a spectacular new and authentic Japanese garden that is bigger, more accessible and free for everyone to enjoy."