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The Garden's history

The first steps to establish a botanic garden in the Eurobodalla Shire began in 1985 when a citizens’ group, associated with Eurobodalla Coastwatchers, first met to consider the establishment of a flora reserve, holding public meetings to garner support.

Establishment

In 1986, with community support, the ‘Friends of the Eurobodalla Native Botanic Gardens’ (the Friends) was formed. That year, Eurobodalla Shire Council progressed the project by establishing a Management Committee to oversee the development and management of the Gardens.

In 1987, Eurobodalla Council applied to NSW State Forestry for an Occupation Permit for a portion of Mogo State Forest at Deep Creek. This site had already been partially cleared to provide fill for the walls of Deep Creek Dam, the Shire’s principal water storage.

From its conception, the Botanic Garden was to become a unique showcase of regional plants. Site work commenced in 1988, workers consisting of a small number of Council staff and Friends organised volunteers. The pace of development quickened after 1992 when the first full-time Council funded professional staff member was appointed but volunteers remained the bulk of the workforce.

In February 1994, a bush fire destroyed all buildings on the site including the supervisor's residence.

The period from 1997 to 2011 was one of sustained development with the Visitor Centre being opened in 2001 by NSW Premier Bob Carr and the construction of basic facilities, themed walks and display gardens.

From 2012 to 2018 development accelerated:

  • The Children's Play Space was officially opened in April 2012.
  • A grant funded Seed Bank was established in 2013 along with creation of a new works depot and upgraded propagation facilities.
  • In 2015 lighting was installed to the carpark and electricity extended to the picnic facilities.
  • 2016  saw the construction of a 90-vehicle overflow parking area with access roads and pathway was developed.
  • Governor of New South Wales Sir David Hurley officially opened a new accessible Barbecue Pavilion in 2017.

This period also saw visitor numbers triple, staff positions double, educational programs extended and the establishment of a rich cultural events calendar incorporating visual and the performing arts.

2018 heralded the completion of planning and the commencement of construction for the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden Visitor Centre Redevelopment Project. This ambitious project with a budget of $3.2 million was designed to improve existing infrastructure, create new facilities and ensure the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden was fit for the future.

2019 New Year's Eve bushfire

On New Year's Eve 2019 bushfire again devastated the site, this time with greater ferocity and heavier impacts on plants, wildlife and infrastructure.

Fortunately, the majority of the work recently carried out as part of the major Redevelopment Project survived. This survival was largely attributed to good design principals, fire resistant materials, good maintenance and asset protection zones. Over the next several years lost infrastructure will be rebuilt and the Gardens living collection replanted.

Inspirational Naturescape display gardens were completed in 2021 and in 2022 a major new Sensory Garden project will be officially opened, funded through the NSW State Government ‘Everyone Can Play’ grant program.

Development plan

During 1987 and 1988 a Development Plan was prepared with the assistance of the School of Environmental Design at the Canberra College of Advanced Education.

The first Development Plan for the Gardens was approved in 1988 by the Eurobodalla Shire Council. This plan established the concept of the Gardens. It proposed a development schedule for the following five-year period, although it was clear because of financial constraints the Gardens would take much longer than this period to develop. With the support of the Council limited work began in 1989-90. The building of the Gardens Supervisor’s home in 1991-92 and the subsequent appointment of the Gardens Supervisor, was the turning point in accelerating the development of the Gardens.

A bushfire on 6 January 1994, caused massive dislocation to the Gardens’ development and because of the need for a more comprehensive fire risk management strategy it became necessary to make a series of modifications to the Development Plan.

Management plans

In November 1995, the Management Committee prepared a second Management Plan for the Gardens to cover the five year period from 1995-96 to 1999-2000. However, following consideration by the Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) of the November 1996 report entitled Native Botanic Gardens Management Review – 1996 by Deverson et al (Review Report), the ESC requested that a third Management Plan be prepared taking into account the findings of the Review Report and the directions proposed by the ESC at its meeting in April 1997. The review’s recommended change of name to Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens was adopted.

This 1997 Management Plan covered the five-year period 1997-98 to 2001-02. It incorporated the essential features of the previous two plans together with allowance for changes that had occurred, especially receipt of the Review Report and the ESC’s directions.

A Council review followed the bushfire. The decision was that the Gardens would be rebuilt on the same site. A recommendation accepted from the review process was that its name would be changed to Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens in line with the policy of collecting and displaying the flora of the region.

A concept plan for the Display Gardens including the Herbarium and Visitors Centre site was prepared by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1996, and further developed using Kiah Environmental Consultants from Canberra, whose report and plan was adopted by Eurobodalla Shire Council in 1999. This plan is the basis of all new display garden beds and other developments in the Gardens.

The 1997 Management Plan was in operation until the Management Plan 2006-10 was adopted by the ESC in February 2006.

In 2013 Eurobodalla Shire Council disbanded the Management Committee in favour of Project Working groups that would be assembled just for the life of individual major projects then disbanded upon project completion. This formed one of the recommendations in the Botanic Gardens first five-year Strategic plan that was adopted in 2013.

The Garden will continue to grow under 5-year Strategic Plans developed by Eurobodalla Shire Council with input from key stakeholders community partners.

The building was originally designed by architect Stuart Whitelaw, then of Whitelaw and Chrystal, Sydney. Construction began in 1999 and was completed in 2001. The Visitors Centre was officially opened by the NSW Premier Bob Carr on 1 September 2001.

The tower above the middle of the building acts as a cooling tower in summer taking in hot air from the Herbarium and Visitors Centre through adjustable vents. Eurobodalla Council contributed $190,000 initially for the building. Much of the major building work has been carried out by contractors. The Friends contributed over $50,000 and many hours of voluntary work.

In 2016 Canberra based architects ClarkeKeller were engaged to provide plans for the redevelopment of the Visitor Centre and relocation of the Wallace Herbarium. Work commenced in August 2018 to relocate the Herbarium to the nursery precinct and by December 2019 the original building had been extended to accommodate a new café, toilet block and plant shop. The areas vacated by the herbarium and café were refurbished to accommodate a function room and new information and retail centre.