Friends’ green thumbs ready to touch master plan

August 3, 2020 BY

Anniversary approaching: The Buninyong Botanic Gardens consists of upper and lower sections, spread across two blocks, and will be 160 years old in 2021. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

FRIENDS of the Buninyong Botanic Gardens are in talks with the City of Ballarat, following their council vote to proceed with a master plan for the one hundred and fifty nine-year-old green space.

FOBBG president, Roger Permezel said there is a need for a visionary strategy to take the City-managed, 10-acre gardens into the future, as a place with historical, aesthetic, scientific and social value.

“The City of Ballarat is planning a major engineering project to repair the leaking wall of The Gong reservoir in the Buninyong Botanic Gardens,” he said.

“Council is also planning to attend to instability associated with the concrete walls surrounding the walled garden, previously the township’s swimming baths. Both projects are estimated to cost over $1.5 million.

“Friends of Buninyong Botanic Gardens believes it is timely, indeed urgent, to be establishing a master plan for the gardens. The character of this precinct is to be preserved, whilst there is also scope for enhancement.”

Earlier in the year, FOBBG sent an information memorandum to the City of Ballarat, outlining the basics of their preferable approach.

“We submitted that appropriately qualified gardens planning consultants, with relevant expertise, should be commissioned in order to achieve optimum outcomes, through a carefully constructed process of engagement,” Mr Permezel said.

“This would take into account circulation, connection, amenity and continuity, with an overarching principle of environmental and economic sustainability.

“Underpinning this process should be a commitment to communication, in order for timely engagement with community, relevant authorities and experts, and reference to existing studies and reports.”

FOBBG are mindful of landscape, social, hydrological, biological and ecological circulation, and connections between The Gong and the gardens, connections to country, to community, the town’s district and the Ballarat region.

They value the classic gardenesque form of the gardens, dense tree canopies and usable open space, as well as continuity, with corridors to connect people and animals with plants and water, and the precinct’s heritage.

Ensuring the gardens remain complementary to the neighbourhood, including the bowling club, Buninyong Primary School, homes and churches is also key.

“There was a very strong community response in terms of endorsing our document through the council’s MySay website,” Mr Permezel said.

“Overlaying that was 50 local community members sending personalised letters, specifically supporting that information memorandum.

“We made it clear that the community is seeking a master plan and they responded accordingly, saying that they will give us one. We’re in discussions about the process that will be followed.”

FOBBG are looking forward to a “good collaborative process,” having established an advisory panel including input from RMIT University landscape architectural design academic, Jock Gilbert.

Members of FOBBG are volunteers advocating for the gardens on behalf of Buninyong.

They organise events and fundraisers for facilities and garden projects in the green space, and facilitate education programs for adults, and outreach garden activities for children.