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Korean Garden set to transform empty Barrys Point reserve

Flagstaff Team

Garden view… A plan for the Korean Garden at Barrys Point Reserve, with the initial war-memorial garden at left incorporating a yin-yang flower bed.

Paul Seong Hwa Lee was a student at Rosmini College when he first put the case for a Korean garden in Takapuna. Now, more than a decade later, he’s an architect overseeing the dream of his community to create a special place for all to enjoy.

Lee hopes breaking ground on the garden will come quickly – after long years in the planning – but he is awaiting final sign-off on a licence to occupy the chosen site at Barrys Point Reserve.

The key approval has already been won from the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board as landholder of 37 Fred Thomas Dr, so the council form-filling should be a formality.

Board members congratulated Lee and other members of the Korean Garden Trust when he outlined its plans last month to create the garden in three stages. “It’s awesome,” said chair Ruth Jackson.

Money is in hand to begin the work, although more will be needed to complete the second and third stages of the project over the years ahead. Lee said there was sponsor interest from within the Korean community and this would grow once the project started to take shape.

A bare bit of grass to the south of the Lake House Arts Centre will be shaped into a place of contemplation. It will have views to the city and in the other direction to the playing fields of Lee’s old high school. He is reluctant to get ahead of due processes around the licence from Auckland Council, but told the Observer that the next step for the trust would be an on-site pre-construction meeting. “Once it is finalised we will begin the digging.”

Stage one is the building of a war memorial garden, which will acknowledge both Korean and New Zealand veterans of the Korean War. A centrepiece will be two rocks one from South Korea and been on site for some time. The memorial will incorporate a flower bed laid out in a yin-yang-shaped pattern.

Board member Trish Deans thanked the trust representatives for recognising New Zealand veterans in Korea.

Later stages of the project will include the building of a pavilion and create an area where the public will be able to gather for performances and cultural celebrations. Planting and paving will also feature, to transform the flat grassland into an inviting space. Lee said it was hoped events could be held as often as monthly in the planned space that would fit several hundred people.

The Korean Garden Trust was set up in 2009, with 10 founding members. This had grown to 100, Lee told the meeting.

Dating back to 1997, Korean volunteers first began contributing to the local community with work at Lake Pupuke. But after discussions with the former North Shore City Council and Takapuna Community Board, Barrys Point Reserve was arrived at as a good site for a garden.

It has available space with good transport access and high visibility. Necessary resource consents to use what was once a landfill site have been obtained already.

The board granted the charitable trust a 10-year lease, with a 10- year right of renewal. A sum of $150,000 it set aside for the project in 2015 and carried over will be made available in Auckland Council’s current community facilities works programme.

The trust will be responsible for future costs and ongoing maintenance of the garden, which is expected to become a visitor attraction. Its aim is to promote understanding of Korean culture. Lee said Barrys Point would be home to the first public Korean garden in New Zealand. Two similar gardens had been set up in Australia. Board members welcomed the thorough outline of the project Lee gave. This included the tabling of detailed designs that came from Lee’s architectural practice, Black Tree.

The growing Korean community in Auckland has a strong base on the North Shore.

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