International Peer Review of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust

10 December 2011: The team of international experts advising the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust on the future direction of its Gardens as it approaches its bicentenary are surprised that many Australians don’t realise that Sydney’s city oasis is also one of the great botanic gardens of the world.

Director of Naples Botanical Gardens in Florida, Brian Holley said, “I don’t think people here realise the international esteem and scientific influence of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.”

Mr Holley and the other international experts from high-profile gardens around the world will submit joint recommendations to the Trust this weekend before returning home on Sunday. Over one intensive week they have toured from the sea to the plains and mountains to inspect the Trust’s Sydney and two regional gardens.

“The size and variety of the plant collections and the beauty of the gardens are just amazing,” Mr Holley said.

Trust Executive Director Professor David Mabberley said the Trust invited the team of experts from Britain, America, Germany and Australia to review the management and direction of its gardens and scientific assets in preparation for its next century.

“In 2016, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden, the nation’s first botanic garden and oldest scientific organisation will be 200 years old. As we head towards our bicentenary and into our third century, we’d like to see Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden operating and recognised as one of the world’s best.

“We would also like a higher profile and increased visitation to our other estates. The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan on the plains of Sydney’s south-west is the largest botanic garden in the country and specialises in native plants. It is also a much loved community recreation space.

“The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah is the nation’s highest botanic garden specialising in cool-climate plants. As well as spectacular landscaped gardens and mountain views, its special experiences include a walk through pristine temperate rainforest.”

Professor Mabberley said that to celebrate its bicentenary, the Trust has planned a series of major scientific and conservation projects and new interactive facilities for families to enjoy while they discover the marvels of plants and the living world.

The State Government has contributed $38 million over seven years to the 2016 program for a PlantBank conservation and research centre at the Australian Botanic Garden and for the the Pyramid of Life visitor and education centre at the Sydney Garden. Children’s garden hubs for playful learning at all three estates are planned. A further $40 million is sought from donors and corporate sponsors.

Professor Mabberley said the Trust needs the public to commit their hearts and minds to understanding the importance of botanic gardens.

“Behind the beautiful gardens and greenhouses, there is hard science going on. Increasingly plants are being lost in their native habitats and survive only in cultivation. Today, the world’s botanic gardens grow, study and conserve over 30 per cent of the world’s known plants. Their work is critical to plant conservation and biodiversity,” he said.

Professor Dr Thomas Borsch, Director, Berlin Botanic Garden and Museum (Botanischer Garten and Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem);
Paul Redman, Director Longwood Gardens, USA;
Brian Holley, Executive Director, Naples Botanical Garden,
USA; Professor Angela McFarlane, Director of Public Engagement and Learning, The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
The team also includes
Guy Cooper PSM, former Chief Executive of Taronga Park and Western Plains Zoo;
Bob Conroy, Executive Director, Park Management, Office of Environment and Heritage.
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