Wittunga botanic gardens masterplan

24 November 2020

Mr DULUK: Thank you for your indulgence, Mr Chair; much appreciated. Minister, I refer you to Budget Paper 4, Volume 2, page 156. What is the time line for the rollout of the Wittunga master plan, especially around the completion of the nature playground, and the move of state flora to Wittunga from Belair National Park?

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS: I thank the member for Waite for that question. I know he is very engaged in what happens up at Wittunga within his electorate at Blackwood and the potential, with the upgrades and the enhancements that Wittunga will have, to see more people engage with open space and with the natural world. It is one of three of our botanic gardens that probably got overlooked for a long time. I think I would be, as much as anyone else, guilty of being very aware of the fact we have a botanic garden within the CBD being Adelaide Botanic Garden, we have the very well known Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, but we also have the much smaller garden up at Blackwood: Wittunga Botanic Garden.

It is very unique in that the garden is sort of split between collections of plants from South Australia of local providence but also plants from South Africa which really does make it quite unique. I think that goes back to the ownership of the gardens in the first place. We have been very fortunate in this budget to secure $9.22 million over the next three years to deliver projects at Adelaide Botanic Garden, Botanic Park and also a further $3 million or thereabouts for the Mount Lofty precinct, much of which I expect to be spent on amenity upgrades in Mount Lofty Botanic Garden because of the very significant increase in visitation numbers up there at Mount Lofty, particularly in the autumn and spring—very much in autumn, increasingly in spring. I think I mentioned before that the garden has a particularly Instagrammable nature, which has made it go close to viral on social media in the past.
The Wittunga Botanic Garden project is really interesting because it has come from a partnership that the state government, the Friends of the Botanic Gardens, the Botanic Gardens board and the federal government have been able to forge. I know the member for Waite has been very engaged in ensuring that there is an avenue for federal investment in his community, in particular in this site. In my role as minister, and working with Nicolle Flint, the federal member for Boothby, we have been able to come up with a whole range of projects within the Wittunga Botanic Garden to lift the amenity, give the garden a bit of TLC and position it as a place that the community is really proud of and wants to visit.

The Wittunga Botanic Garden is really well located because there is a school just over the fence from it and the railway line runs adjacent to it. There is visitation potential at that site, whether it is young people visiting through school programs or with parents and caregivers after school or visitors coming in, having used the train to very easily access the garden via the Belair line direct from the CBD. The garden really does lend itself to much increased visitation and discovery, something that has not necessarily been the case in the past.

The investment should also lead to increased opening hours at the site as well. I am really pleased that we are facilitating increased opening hours there. I think the garden previously shut at about 4.30pm, which I found quite perverse when I became the minister, especially on summer evenings when you could not actually go to the garden because the gate was locked. This investment is not paying for the increased opening hours, but we are enabling that as a consequence of the transformation of the site.

A master plan has been put together by the Board of the Botanic Gardens for the Wittunga Botanic Garden, and that master plan will be rolled out over the coming years. It is not fully funded, but we have been able to fund various aspects of that master plan. One thing the federal funding through the City Deal has enabled us to do is deliver a nature play on the site. That nature play should be completed in early 2020-21, a design is underway and being refined at the moment. Hopefully, that nature play will be constructed by March or April 2021. I think that, for young people, will be something really quite fantastic in the Wittunga Botanic Garden, lots of people being drawn to that as a new destination within the destination.

Walking trails and lookout areas within the Wittunga Botanic Garden are also being done up and invested in as part of this. It was great to see the old pool fencing done. There was swimming pool fencing around the edge that was obviously put up there for safety reasons back in the day. It really looked very grotty and detracted from the site, so that has been taken away. There are new lookouts and walking trails around the lake on the site. We know that people love engaging with views over water, even more so than over green open space, so we are giving plenty of opportunity for people to do that.
We are removing the Phragmites and the other rushes from that area. That has been a really important part of this upgrade as well. There is lots more to do, but it was great to visit there with some representatives of the board, the Friends and, of course, the member for Waite and the federal member for Boothby a few weeks ago. We planted trees and celebrated, with a morning tea, the new life for the Wittunga Botanic Garden, which we are all very excited about.