Ballarat City Council to decide future of botanical gardens fernery

Ballarat City councillors will decide the future of the city’s dilapidated fernery at a general meeting on Wednesday after designs came back millions over budget.  

Council allocated more than $1.4 million to redevelop the fernery in the botanical gardens in the 2015/16 budget, the first major investment in the attraction for 50 years. 

However the Laidlaw & Laidlaw Design and Bower Architecture-designed Fernery Redevelopment Project was costed at more than $4 million, well in excess of council’s allocated spend. 

Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh said council had repeatedly lobbied both the state and federal government to invest in the fernery but had received no interest from either level of government. 

“We have been very consistent in our commitment to the project, we’ve budgeted for it and as a council we want to follow through,” Cr McIntosh said. 

“We’ve done significant lobbying over a number of years but it’s consistently come back as an unsuccessful project.”

Artist impression of the proposed fernery

Artist impression of the proposed fernery

Council officers are recommending the existing funding be spent to refurbish the existing the existing fernery while examining the longer term possibility of establishing a larger space elsewhere in the city based off the designs. 

The refurbishment works would include structural repairs to the existing steel beams, new drainage and irrigation and recladding the existing structure.  The funding would also allow for some of the landscaping work suggested in the redevelopment plan, however it would not cover the full proposal.

The works would be subject to approval from Heritage Victoria.  Stage one of the development had been scheduled for completion at the end of this year. 

It’s been derelict for so long and it looks terrible so there's a degree of urgency.

Raoul Dixon - Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens president

Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens president Raoul Dixon said while the group didn’t want to see the project rushed, action needed to be taken soon to protect the existing ferns. 

“It’s been derelict for so long and it looks terrible so there's a degree of urgency,” Mr Dixon said.