Friends of the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden Port Augusta Incorporated

 History of the Garden

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The establishment of an Australian Botanic Garden, displaying arid zone flora was proposed by Port Augusta's first Parks & Gardens Superintendent, John Zwar in 1981. This followed a Churchill Fellowship Study Tour in 1978 during which he investigated arid zone amenity horticulture in several countries. He saw many plant species from arid Australia widely utilised overseas for land reclamation, windbreaks and shade, fuel production, and amenity plantings. He was aware that there was no single institution in Australia where research in this field was centralised. The proposal was accepted by the Port Augusta City Council in 1981 with the support of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. Public support for the development of the garden grew strongly. After further investigation by a State Government Committee, support of the concept, came from the State, but without financial commitment. An active "Friends" group was formed in 1984 which promoted the garden widely, sought funds and lobbied for development. The "Friends" have raised or purchased most of the plants needed for the Garden, organised working bees to assist with development and provided expertise, plant and equipment.

The fine site of more than 250 ha at Port Augusta West is divided by the Stuart Highway and includes the best remaining natural vegetation including Western Myall woodland and chenopod plain, close to the city. There is a range of soil types. Much of the site remains in a natural state. With impressive views over the headwaters of Spencer Gulf to the Flinders Ranges, and north west to the Tent Hills an appropriate setting and outback feel for the Garden is created. The facilities for the city are close by, but the adjacent urban area is not dominant and cannot be seen. A feature of added interest is the coastal vegetation including mangroves and samphire on the shore line of Spencer Gulf which forms the eastern boundary.

BassiaArid Zone FloraDevelopment of the AALBG has been slowed down by a lack of funding, but there has been significant process in recent years. In the 1980's early site development was funded by Council, the Friends group, and Government unemployment relief schemes. Volunteer assistance was also very important. The Port Augusta City Council established a Management Advisory Committee in 1988 to seek funding and oversee development. Corporate sponsor Western Mining Corporation funded initial botanical surveys of the site undertaken with the assistance of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and subsequently a detailed master plan which was adopted as the basis for future development. In February 1996, a Board of Management which reports to the Council met for the first time replacing the Advisory Committee. The Garden's first permanent worker commenced in 1994, which greatly advanced site progress, aided considerably by Friends volunteers, occasional help from Greening Australia and trainees undertaking work experience. More staff are needed for the garden to be developed to its full potential. The Visitor Reception Building is operated by staff employed by the Port Augusta City Council and provides services and facilities of a high standard for visitors. State and Federal Government tourism grants, Council funding and continued help from WMC Limited in recent years resulted in the official opening of Stage 1 of the AALBG in September 1996.





Eremophila interpretive sign
Photo J. Zwar

Timbers of Australia's arid zone
Photo J. Zwar

 


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