8. Site Development

8.1 Landscape

Aim: To enhance the Gardens’ landscape values while reflecting the horticultural, scientific, educational and recreational roles of the Gardens.


The Gardens is an important component of the landscape setting of the Central National Area of Canberra. The location of the Gardens on the eastern slopes of Black Mountain provides strong visual links to prominent landmarks such as Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin and Canberra’s inner hills.

A significant component of the landscape character of the Gardens is the extensive tree cover, composed of trees native to the Canberra district and those planted from other parts of the continent. In the developed sections of the Gardens, these trees form part of a the variety of botanical displays that have been developed in a naturalistic style, while still reflecting the Gardens’ role as a scientific and educational institution.

The undeveloped areas of the Gardens, in what is known as the southern precinct, are of environmental value and scientific interest. Substantial parts of these areas were disturbed or cleared in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the vegetation is characterised by regrowth woodland. While various suggestions have been made for use of the southern precinct, the steepness of the site, together with difficulties accessing the site from the northern precinct, pose substantial constraints for development for public use. Consequently the area is currently maintained largely as a natural precinct with limited public access by guided tour.

The 1992 Development Planning Guide forms the broad masterplan for development of the site during the life of this Plan (refer to Appendix 8 for a precis). A zoning plan for the Gardens, based on the National Capital Authority masterplan for the Gardens site is shown at Figure 2, this includes an indication of the major natural drainage lines on site.


Management Actions (Refer also to Sections 3.1 and 8.2)

8.2 Buildings and Visitor Facilities

Aim: To ensure buildings and visitor facilities meet the needs of visitors and staff while conserving the landscape and environmental values of the site.


Buildings on the Gardens site reflect the diverse scientific, educational and recreational functions of the organisation. Buildings include public facilities such as a Visitor Centre, Cafe, education facilities, Ducrou pavilion and public toilets. Specialised facilities include nursery glasshouses, the herbarium, horticultural depots and a research laboratory. Office accommodation is provided for Gardens staff and, from time to time, the Gardens offices also accommodate other staff from Environment Australia.

A number of buildings are inappropriately sited and no longer meet the functional needs of the organisation. The Australian National Botanic Gardens Development Planning Guide and the National Capital Authority Masterplan for the Australian National Botanic Gardens provide siting guidelines for the consolidation of buildings within the Gardens.


Management Actions

Projects outlined in the Development Planning Guide will be progressively implemented (subject to budgetary considerations and, where appropriate, the preparation of business plans). The first priority will be the relocation of the nursery to a stable site close to access via the Gardens’ northern service gate. The Gardens will also consider appropriate opportunities for partnerships to sell plants from the site. Preliminary options for siting of the nursery are shown at Appendix 9. Further priorities are:

i. redevelopment of the existing nursery site, once the nursery has been relocated, to complement the Eucalypt lawn and provide improved visitor facilities and attractions for the summer concerts (refer also to Section 8.1);

ii. redevelopment of the Top Cottages, Top Depot and Dump to provide a new horticultural works centre including a combined horticultural depot, trades workshop and storage areas;

iii. relocation of the Visitor Centre and shop and rationalisation of associated core precinct facilities in and around the existing cafe;

iv. pending iii), re-development of the old visitor centre as a function centre;

v. provision of children’s play and exploration facilities (refer also to Section 5.5).

8.3 Access and Carparking

Aim: To provide visitors and staff with safe and efficient access routes into and around the Gardens.


The Gardens is maintained largely as a pedestrian zone, with limited vehicle movement to allow for deliveries and service activities. The site is steep and this poses a number of access challenges. Existing access routes around the site reflect the history of the development of the site. Bitumen sealed roads, built to conventional suburban standards, provide access for vehicles and pedestrians. Narrower pedestrian paths, surfaced in a variety of ways, wind through the plant displays. Some areas of potential conflict between vehicles and pedestrians exist, particularly at the entrance to the Gardens from the carpark.

In recent years a main pedestrian circulation route has been constructed in the southern sector of the developed portion of the Gardens. It was built to disabled access standards wherever possible. This route links many of the major displays and provides a good introductory route for visitors. The use of motorised wheelchairs is permitted and the Gardens supplies several motorised scooters for visitors with disabilities wishing to explore the site in this way.

Carparking for around 220 vehicles, including buses, is provided inside the Gardens gates. Unsealed land adjacent to the entrance is occasionally used when the main carparks are full. A modest charge applies for car parking (refer to Appendix 6).

Part of the operations of the Gardens is based at the CPBR at the nearby CSIRO Black Mountain site. Several pedestrian and light vehicle links are maintained between the sites.


Management Actions

8.4 Infrastructure and Asset Management

Aim: To ensure that infrastructure assets are managed and maintained to meet the functional requirements of the Gardens in an efficient and cost-effective manner.


The diverse functions of the Gardens require a complex infrastructure that includes buildings, glasshouses, irrigation, specialist plant and equipment and a range of visitor facilities.

Major cyclical maintenance for infrastructure is currently out-sourced to private contractors, following a history of management of these assets by Commonwealth agencies. A staff plumber maintains the Gardens’ irrigation system and a wide range of minor repairs are also undertaken by staff.

The transition from infrastructure management and maintenance by government agencies to the private sector requires the development of an active program of asset management based on life-cycle costing techniques.


Management Actions

8.5 Risk Management Strategies

Aim: To adopt appropriate risk management strategies that ensure the security and protection of assets and infrastructure and the safety of all site users.


The Gardens’ role as a public, scientific and educational organisation requires particular attention to the risks associated with collections’ security, infrastructure protection and matters of staff and public safety.

Bushfire incursion from adjacent bush presents a significant risk to the site and the various collections, as well as to staff and visitors. The Gardens works cooperatively with Environment ACT and the Rural Fire Service in conjunction with ACT Emergency Services volunteer groups to maintain and implement bushfire prevention and control plans.

The undeveloped parts of the Gardens on the southern and northern extensions are managed essentially as wild areas and may be subject to bushfire from within and outside the site. The northern extension is managed to periodically remove weeds such as blackberries and to reduce the overall fuel load. Access for fire fighting vehicles to this area is available from an adjacent road. Access to the southern extension is limited to the summit road to Black Mountain and some tracks around the ACT Government reservoir.

To protect the living collections, infrastructure and buildings on the developed part of the site from bushfire the ANBG has developed an integrated fire protection and control strategy involving several elements. Hazard reduction programs focus on removal of available ‘fuel’ from strategic areas such as boundary fence lines and on prescription burning of strategic areas on the western side of the Gardens. The use of a high pressure, high volume boundary sprinkler system is complemented by an extensive system of standpipes, fire hydrants and overhead truck-filling hoses, for the use of fire fighting services, throughout the site. Maintenance and regular testing of these systems is given high priority. This testing revealed a major fault in the power supply to the boundary sprinkler pumphouse in 2000, which was able to be repaired before the bushfire season.

All buildings at the Gardens are monitored and alarmed for fire and smoke. A system of fire wardens is in place with designated staff as Chief and Deputy Chief and as Wardens and Deputy Wardens in the various buildings. Training of these wardens in fire responses and procedures is carried out periodically, as are general fire evacuation drills. Hand-held extinguishers and fire hoses are provided in all of the buildings on the site. All fire warning and fighting equipment is independently inspected and tested on a regular basis.

The Herbarium buildings on both sites feature an internal water sprinkler system and have hand-held extinguishers and fire hoses situated throughout. A Very Early Smoke Detection Alarm provides early warning of potential fire situations. Additionally, the Herbarium on the Gardens site is fitted with an external water drench system.

Other security issues arise from occasional acts of vandalism to plant displays and infrastructure. Staff are encouraged to report such incidents to enable rapid remedial action. Measures are undertaken to avoid and minimise theft and to limit damage by contractors unfamiliar with the site and damage resulting from the impact of large visitor numbers.

The Herbarium collections are housed in secure, weatherproof buildings that have security patrols at night. The specimens are stored in robust steel compactus units (vascular specimens and ferns) or steel cabinets (non-vascular specimens), with closed shelving to reduce contact and damage. The Photograph Collection is housed in fire-resistant safes.

In 1997, the Gardens, with CPBR staff input, commenced development of an interim Disaster Management and Recovery Plan for its buildings, including those used by the CPBR. The Plan will outline risk abatement measures and the procedures and mechanisms to recover and restore collections in the case of damage.

Hazards at the Gardens are monitored through a site Occupational Health and Safety Committee, assisted by technical advisers from the Department of the Environment and Heritage and external organisations. Staff also have a high awareness of safety and risk management issues, and this is reinforced through training. Cyclic maintenance arrangements are aimed at ensuring the safety of plant, equipment and other infrastructure and conformance to current safety standards and regulations.

As more contractors are used to complete works on the Gardens site, a number of procedures and improvements to site documentation have been required to maintain high levels of safety. Contractors are required to be fully conversant with safety procedures and to have accurate site documentation to ensure that hazards are clearly identified.

The Gardens living plant collections also are at risk from pathogens such as Armillaria luteobubalina and these issues are discussed in chapter 3.


Management Actions

8.6 Adjacent Lands

Aim: To maintain and enhance cooperative relationships with adjacent site users and other stakeholders.


The Gardens shares boundaries with Canberra Nature Park, CSIRO and with uncommitted Crown land owned by the ACT Government. The Gardens is situated opposite the Australian National University and shares an access road to the north of the site with the University’s Paleomagnetic Laboratory. The developed sectors of the Gardens are bounded by a 2.5 metre high fence that is primarily intended to exclude animals and to maintain security.

A description of the Gardens’ boundaries was defined when the site was proclaimed a reserve under the former Parks Act and further refinement of the cadastral boundaries of the site has been a matter of ongoing discussion with the National Capital Authority.

Parts of the Gardens’ scientific operations are based at the CPBR’s Australian National Herbarium at the CSIRO Black Mountain site. This means that both pedestrian and light vehicle access between the Gardens and CSIRO sites are required.

The Gardens Development Planning Guide recommended the Gardens consider the acquisition of areas of uncommitted land for the development of a new entrance from Clunies Ross Street. This area, and some other areas of uncommitted land, are partly disturbed and have significant numbers of woody weeds.


Management Actions


Updated 6 May, 2004 , webmaster, ANBG (anbg-info@anbg.gov.au)