Exotic Chinese building materials meant for the upkeep of Dunedin's Chinese garden, but missing for a-year-and-a-half, have been spotted, according to a tip-off received by TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.
The Shanghai Municipal Government supplied crates of rare Chinese wood panels, granite and marble to Dunedin City Council for the upkeep of its multi-million dollar Chinese garden.
The supplies included rare rock from a Chinese lake that can no longer be obtained.
"If you can't get it again, it's almost priceless because you can't go to Mitre 10 and buy authentic materials for a Chinese garden," Ian Melvin, the council's retired head gardener said.
"It would be more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think there's no exaggeration in that at all. I think that is a conservative estimate," he added.
The materials were stored in a Dunedin City Council shed at Tahuna Park until "people went looking for materials and couldn't find them", Mr Melvin said.
"Somebody in the council knows where that went to," he said.
Some items turned up at a second-hand dealership in the backstreets of South Dunedin. The dealership's owner has been cleared of any wrongdoing by police.
The owner of the dealership told Seven Sharp an Auckland-based contractor cleared the shed for some "beer money". But that contractor doesn't seem to exist.
But a breakthrough has now been made, with a phone caller telling Seven Sharp the Chinese materials have been spotted somewhere on the outskirts of Dunedin.
The council has so far refused to explain what it knows about the case.