Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands Trusts are to amalgamate. Is this A Good Thing? Good Question.
NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker has announced that the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and the Centennial Parklands and Moore Park Trust will amalgamate, from 2014.
This means that the management of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, those at Mt Annan and Mt Tomah, as well as that of Centennial Parklands and Moore Park will merge into one.
There has been great concern among members of the RBG Foundation and Friends (F&F) that this proposed amalgamation would dilute the strong scientific objectives of the Trust, by pushing a greater emphasis on revenue generation. According to the F&F, the RBG Trust specifies that the primary objectives of the Gardens are “science, plant conservation, horticultural excellence and education of the community“. Interestingly, Minister Parker describes them in her media release as: “botany and horticulture, education, tourism and health and wellbeing“, which is a little different. There certainly isn’t any mention of tourism in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act, which reads:
7 Principal objects of Trust
(1) The principal objects of the Trust are:
(a) to maintain and improve the Trust lands, the National Herbarium and the collections of living and preserved plant life owned by the Trust,
(b) to increase and disseminate knowledge with respect to the plant life of Australia, and of New South Wales in particular, and
(c) to encourage the use and enjoyment of the Trust lands by the public by promoting and increasing the educational, historical, cultural and recreational value of those lands.
(2) When acting in pursuance of its objects, the Trust shall give particular emphasis to encouraging and advancing the study of systematic botany, and to plant conservation.
The media release accompanying the announcement also hails the savings that will come from “sharing of resources, staff and equipment across the Sydney basin and the amalgamation of the executive teams”, (which obviously inevitably equals job losses – and I don’t know whether that’s appropriate or not) however it also says that “up to 50 per cent of the financial benefits come from new revenue – improved booking systems, better customer data base, new activities and experiences.” Which sounds a bit like tourism again.
The F&F are cautious in their response, with F&F Chairman Clive Austin saying “there will not be any change to the core purposes of the Gardens”. They might have to get Minister Parker and those at NSW Environment and Heritage to re-read the legislation and agree on exactly what those core purposes are first.
The Minister’s Media release goes on to say that the amalgamation “…will deliver coordinated green space education opportunities to within 30 minutes of all Sydney primary and secondary schools; it will coordinate combined recreational and sporting assets that include more than 125 playing fields, equestrian, orienteering, bike riding, running, walking, golf, and soccer. It brings major benefits for the community and the Trusts.”
Sounds like those scientists are going to be very, very active.
Clive Austin also reports that Kim Ellis, CEO of Sydney’s Centennial Parklands Trust since 2011, will temporarily take on the role of CEO during the amalgamation period. I’m sure he will know that the Royal Botanic Gardens is NOT a recreational park.