Phase 1: Laying the Foundations
In this phase, we’re fundraising for six ‘big-vision’ headliner projects. We are also laying the foundations for an expanded scientific program to meet the critical challenges in plant diversity and climate change that we face today. Finally, we know that many people will be keen to contribute to our efforts in water sustainability.
The entrances to the Royal Botanic Gardens located near the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the Opera House and the Art Gallery of New South Wales are framed by magnificent wrought iron gates.
Picture our entrance opposite the State Library on Macquarie Street and imagine passing through an equally memorable set of monumental gates opening out to fresh landscapes and pathways leading to the Palace Rose Garden, the Pioneer Garden, Governor Phillip Fountain then down to a revitalised Tropical Centre.
Housed within the Tropical Centre will be a Macquarie Precinct Visitor Centre that will introduce visitors not only to the collections and history of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain but will help them find their way to (and learn more about) other attractions for visitors in this precinct, amongst them, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the State Library of New South Wales and the Australian Museum.
Irresistible to children (and the rest of us) will be the Rainforest to Palm Grove Tree Top Walk that will wend its way from just outside the Tropical Centre down to the Palm Grove. Adjacent to the precinct in the Domain we’re looking to include a safe jogging and cycling route that will emerge close to the State Library and opposite our magnificent new monumental gates.
Mount Annan Botanic Garden is Australia’s largest botanic garden (416 hectares) and is located in the Macarthur region, Sydney’s fastest growing centre of population. The Garden has developed into a highly-valued resource for the regional community who access it for recreation, education, or simply to enjoy its open vistas, its plants, its wildlife and its fresh air. It also plays a central role for the regional community in improving public health through providing spaces for walking, playing and family relaxation. But we think it can be so much more, and to more people.
We need a striking new entrance - one that brings us to the public's attention and is easy to find. So we'll be opening access to the Garden directly from Narellan Road, a busy arterial route that swings off the M5 on the way to the Southern Highlands and Canberra. We picture this entrance curving gently through grassland until it joins Cunningham Drive, which will transport visitors past historic, managed grassland and Ironbark trees, magnificent remnant Cumberland Plain Woodland and on to a range of other Garden vistas.
Adjacent to this entrance (and complementing the nearby Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living) we’ll be locating a new visitor centre that helps people find where they’d like to go, tells stories of our plants and our wildlife, lets people know about our research and locates us in the history, community and other key attractions of the Macarthur region.
Further discovery unfolds once inside the Garden. We plan to build on the enormous popularity of the children’s playground to establish an Eco-Adventure Garden where older children can experience nature on their own terms; a place where active play is encouraged and parents feel secure and pleased to visit.
And for the whole family, we’ll be developing a much-needed entertainment space around Lakeside. It will take advantage of the natural amphitheatre and the serene effect of water by providing a viewing platform that would convert to a permanent stage, creating a visually spectacular setting for music, theatre and community events such as Carols in the Garden.
Centre for Plant Conservation and Research
This project is about significantly boosting resources for our Science program to help us find answers to support plant diversity and give us clues in how to live on a planet with accelerating climate change.
The Centre for Plant Conservation and Research will not only bring together scientists from New South Wales and other parts of Australia, but will also draw in international scientists with research interests in Gondwana and other inter-continental research. The Centre will facilitate scientific cross-fertilisation that will ferment both ground-breaking and comprehensive plant research underpinned by a central repository of native plant knowledge that includes horticultural, cultural, geographical and ecological information.
The Centre will be sited using the endangered Cumberland Plain woodland as a backdrop and will be built using sustainable, ecologically sensitive and passive design principles. Its features will include state-of-the-art laboratories; a 21st century library; a suite of multi-sized function rooms and lecture facilities; increased capacity for both the National Herbarium of NSW and the NSW Seedbank; and glasshouses designed to maximise natural climate control.
Bicentenary Plant Diversity Program
Our collections of living and preserved plants are the very essence of being a botanic garden and not simply an urban park. They each provide the basis of our scientific programs and our living collections provide the materials for the arts of horticulture and landscaping that make our gardens so spectacular.
The Trust has staff who search for new plant life forms at the bottom of the sea, and others who abseil into wild gorges. Knowing and understanding the biodiversity of our continent, our region and our planet is what drives the team of scientists employed by the Trust.
The Bicentenary Plant Diversity Program is designed as an on-going program with an annual budget. Our scientists and horticulturists are planning a program of plant acquisition for botanical treasures essential for the critical research undertaken by our scientists or that will contribute to exciting new landscapes in our four estates in time for our bicentenary celebrations. For the community, new and exciting plants can draw in both new and repeat visitors to learn more about plants and remind them why they enjoy visiting gardens so much.
This program will also contribute to, and benefit from, newly focused programs that we’re planning for our second phase of fundraising. These include herbarium and research network collaborations and the opportunity to contribute to building botanic garden networks for conservation in South-East Asia and the Pacific. We’re very conscious of our obligations under both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation to share both technical expertise and any benefits arising from collecting with the countries in which we collect.
The plant acquisitions will also support a greater focus on Indigenous knowledge in research programs and, of course, are critical to climate change research into changes in plant, algal and fungal communities.
Leading Sustainability - Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain
Today, our decisions are judged by their impact on the environment. As a leading scientific research institution devoted to plant diversity, we have an obligation to be leaders in sustainability.
The Trust is determined to set the highest standards in minimising resource use. We are already selfsufficient in water at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden and our next sustainability goal is to achieve that same self-sufficiency at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain but there we’ll need to take a different approach. While we do have some rainwater tanks (with the generous assistance of HSBC), we don’t have the luxury of space to collect enough rainwater for our needs.
Over the past five years we’ve reduced our water use by 50 per cent, and now we’ve identified a package of further water conservation measures, as well as water supply options, to help us meet our goal of self-sufficiency by 2016.
One of our options is to harness the volumes of ‘grey’ water from the Sydney business district and Woolloomooloo. We’ll need to carefully treat this water because our plant collections from around the world often have very particular requirements. This means that a part of this project involves some kind of water treatment system as well as underground storage.
Fresh Landscapes and New Adventures
At the Royal Botanic Gardens, each of us has a favourite spot where we treasure constancy. We’re not planning to change the frame of the Gardens, composed as it is of magnificent mature trees and heritage garden landscapes. But our living collections are not static. Each plant has its own finite life cycle and cultural, horticultural, scientific and educational priorities influence what plants we grow in the Botanic Gardens. We’re planning now for the landscapes of tomorrow - focussing on sustainability and taking the opportunity to include some unique, new plants that will excite fresh interest and curiosity.
On a practical level this means turning our minds beyond our maintenance budget and entering the imaginative world of landscape design. Funding under this project will help that imaginative world become real. We need to do fundamental design; collect and propagate plant material and nurture it to the point where it can be planted out; make sure our new plant material is fully labelled (and while we’re at it, fill any gaps in the labels for our existing collections); and most critically, factor in a budget for additional horticultural staff to create our new landscapes and maintain the new additions to our collections. We believe that our new landscapes will help the Royal Botanic Gardens retain its world-class status, be a pleasure aesthetically, as well as having an important educative role for the community about sustainable gardening.
One of the centrepieces of Fresh Landscapes and New Adventures will be a children’s garden. Deep habits are developed in childhood. A pattern of visiting botanic gardens in childhood will have lasting personal benefits throughout a lifetime. Gardens and gardening give pleasure, nurture the soul, calm the spirit, bring communities together and are a source of creativity and health. Plants are the source of life - they link to food, clothing, shelter, clean air - and our survival depends on them.
As the premier city in Australia, Sydney needs to offer its children their own special place in the Royal Botanic Gardens - a safe, stimulating and exciting garden for children - where they can get their hands into soil, grow and make things, and fire their imaginations. The seeds of a love of nature will be sown in tomorrow’s horticulturists and botanists.
The children’s garden will feature innovative design, without detracting from the heritage values of its location. Of course, it will include lots and lots of flowers to enchant and inspire. Experienced botanic garden educators and experts in early childhood development will create a unique kid’s space that makes the connections between plants, our lives and our survival.