NRIs to build Taj Mahal replica in NZ



Auckland: A group of Indians has drawn up a USD 20 million plan to build a replica of the Taj Mahal in this New Zealand city.

The miniature version of the monument to love is planned to be built at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in New North Road, in the Auckland suburb of Eden Tce.

"What we want is a building that will reflect the grandeur and the rich Indian culture and history, and be the pride of the community here," New Zealand Herald Tuesday quoted the centre's chairman Kanu Patel as saying.

The replica may include a marble mausoleum, a pool and gold-plated ornaments.

The Mahatma Gandhi Centre, which cost $6 million to build, sits on a hectare formerly occupied by Findlay's Bakery. The Auckland Indian Association bought it for $1.9 million in 1990.

The centre launched its fundraising efforts this month.

Patel said: "The new building will benefit not only the Indian community but also Auckland City - as a tourist attraction, maybe - so I think there is a good reason for us to be receiving support from local government and charities."

He said the centre had hosted some of the community's most significant social, cultural, religious and musical events and festivals over the years, and the new building would be doing the same, "only on a larger scale".

"Having a piece of land this size in central Auckland is like sitting on a gold mine, and we just have to maximise its potential.

"Since we own the land, we will be putting all the $20 million into the building, and I think it can go quite a long way," Patel said.

He went on to say that said ideas from the community would play a big part in determining exactly what the new structure would look like, and building would start when "enough money is raised".

"The challenge will be to find a balance in the new building, which has to be iconic and at the same time multi-functional.

"The centre is, and will continue to be, the heart and the hub of the Indian community - where celebrations, weddings, classes and religious observations take place."

Local business owners generally supported the Taj Mahal idea, but said they would adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Dairy operator Satiyam Bheema didn't think the development would affect his business, but said he might start selling souvenirs if it became a tourist draw.

However, student Becca Smith, who is renting a flat on a neighbouring street, said she was concerned about the impact the development would have on parking space.

IANS