Labor calls on Baird Government to dump its overdevelopment plan for the Royal Botanic Gardens

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The NSW Opposition has called on the NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes to issue a definitive public statement confirming that the Coalition Government will abandon its overdevelopment plans for the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Shadow Minister for the Environment Luke Foley today said that background briefings that the Coalition Government is backing away from its preposterous overdevelopment plan for Sydney’s internationally renowned Royal Botanic Gardens must be officially confirmed by the Environment Minister.

“The Botanic Gardens are a place to inspire the appreciation and conservation of flora – the Government should never have released any plan that put that at risk through thoughtless overdevelopment,” Mr Foley said.

“We need it to hear it from the lips of the Environment Minister that the Government is indeed making an embarrassing back down in the face of community outrage at their plan to commercialise the Gardens.”

Mr Foley said that Labor’s focus for the Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust will always be in the areas of horticulture, recreation, conservation, science and education - not commercialisation.

Under Labor’s plan for the Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, we will:

  1. Not proceed with the proposals contained in the current Master Plan for a hotel, railway station and ferry terminal with the Royal Botanic Gardens.  Labor will also not proceed with an orientation centre, café and shop at the Queen Elizabeth 2 Gates
  2. Return the land at the northern end of Mrs Macquarie’s Road to the people by altering the current road and turning cars around 100 metres short of the Point. The existing road around the Point must be retained for heritage value and will become a pedestrian thoroughfare. Bush regeneration and the planting of indigenous flora will be prioritised. The grounds of the Botanic Gardens will also be extended to include Mrs Macquarie’s Point while maintaining night access.
  3. Reverse the merger of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust with the Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust. Labor Premier Neville Wran had the vision to establish the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in 1980, giving it control over its own affairs.
  4. Launch an international search for an eminent person with experience in leading a botanical garden to become the new Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust.
  5. Initiate a major public celebration of the Bicentenary of the Royal Botanic Gardens in June 2016. The celebrations will involve all of Sydney, and include the traditional owners of the lands and past and present staff and supporters of the Gardens.
  6. Implement a 10 year vision for the Sydney Gardens Towards 2025, prioritising the following initiatives:

o   Upgrading the waterfront promenade using Water Sensitive Urban Design principles

o   Building a new science and education facility, following the required relocation of the National Herbarium to a new purpose built facility

o   Developing interconnected trails and themed walks through the Gardens

o   Reducing the use of Sydney drinking water for irrigation, potentially using the old naval oil tanks in the Woolloomooloo precinct to store recycled or reclaimed water.

“Labor’s plan is faithful to the organisation’s mission and the spirit in which the lands were originally bestowed,” Mr Foley said.

“The voices of the botanists, plant scientists and horticulturalists will never be drowned out by property developers and commercial event organisers under a Labor Government.

“The Liberals and Nationals have tipped their hand on what their real plan is for the Botanic Gardens and the Domain – the community cannot trust them not to revert to form if they are re-elected.

“Only a Labor Government will put the gardeners back in charge of the Gardens and ensure they stay there.”