ACT News

So much serenity: Canberra's Chinese Garden already the place for a hard-earned break

It's been billed as a place where visitors can "relax and enjoy the ... serenity" and on fine spring days Canberra's soon-to-be completed Chinese gardens seem to be already having that effect.

A gift to Canberra from the Beijing Municipal Government in recognition of our 14 years as sister cities, the traditional garden on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin will be opened by mid-November.

Twenty-nine workers have been flown in from China to build the garden, which sits in Lennox Gardens, just metres from the Chinese embassy.

A Territory and Municipal Services spokesman said the Chinese workers were granted temporary visas specifically to work on the garden and were operating according to a memorandum of understanding between the ACT Government and Beijing.

"All relevant occupational health and safety relations requirements are being observed," he said.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash said the ACT Government approached the Immigration Department to arrange visas for the workers after an agreement had been reached with the Beijing government.

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"Workers for the Beijing Garden project have been granted temporary work (international relations) (subclass 403) visas under the Government Agreement stream," she said.  

"As with all other visa applicants, applicants for subclass 403 visas for this project had to satisfy visa decision-makers that they would be paid according to the relevant Australian award and conditions."

Back in March, the Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu said the project symbolised the importance of economic and cultural ties between the two cities.

"Over time, the garden will grow and prosper just as the friendship between the people of Canberra and the people of Beijing is prospering," he said.

Construction on the garden's grand pavilion and entrance gate has already been completed and work is currently underway to complete the garden paths and landscape work.

Jahan Esfandiari, a Canberran builder who was contracted to work on the garden's grand pavilion, said it was "a very rewarding experience to have been involved in the building of a complex and traditional structure".

"We're hoping for it to become part of the Canberra landscape for a long time calling on the examples of traditional pavilions built in China that have lasted for hundreds of years," he said.

Mr Esfandiari said work preparing the ground for the pavilion and gate started about four months ago although work on the pavilion itself began in early July. 

"About four days ago the last structural elements went up so all that construction work is now complete," he said. 

"The main pavilion was built authentically with an off-white and green marble imported from China with the largest of the pieces weighing in at 3 tonnes," he said.

Mr Esfandiari said timber was also imported from China to build the pavilion and efforts were made to keep the structure as traditional as possible using interlocking joints.

"There were a couple of little bits and pieces that we had to bring up to Australian standards but it was around 99 per cent authentic construction."

Mr Esfandiari said earlier concerns about the loss of a nearby picnic and barbecue area were unwarranted as the facilities had been moved to allow people to continue enjoying the space with a view of the garden.

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