Funding to support grand design plans for the refurbishment of the Ballarat Fernery have not yet been secured half way through a six month deadline.
Council will turn to new plans for a less costly refurbishment of the fernery than the proposed $4 million upgrade, if state or federal government funding is not secured by an April deadline.
City of Ballarat committed $1.4 million to the fernery refurbishment project alongside a Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens donation of $200,000 gathered over a period of 15 years.
Plans for the $4 million upgrade of the fernery were put on hold in October 2017 when council voted to allow six months for council and the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens group to secure adequate funding.
Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens committee member Elizabeth Gilfillan said the fernery in its current state was a lost opportunity.
“The current state of the fernery is very worrying,” Ms Gilfillan said.
“It is not portraying a good image to the community or to visitors. It has got the potential to be a wonderful drawcard which is being wasted.”
Ms Gilfillan said the Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens group had failed to gain funding for the project from philanthropic organisations, and would now prefer council committed to a staged project, with stage one based on currently available funding and further construction staged in line with funding as it comes.
City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh was asked whether committing to a staged project was a possibility after the April deadline, but repeatedly said council had committed $1.4 million with a view to deliver a realistic and achieveable project that was beautiful and respectful of Ballarat’s history and heritage.
“We would look at the plans that we already have on the table and also the landscape design works that the Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens have been working with to come up with the best outcome,” Cr McIntosh said.
“There is a lot you can do for $1.4 million. For $1.4 million I can see a gorgeous outcome.”
Ms Gilfillan said a refurbished fernery would be a part of an education program and take advantage of the boom in garden tourism.
“The fernery could really open up the gardens from the north to the south. At the moment it is more like a full stop really,” Ms Gilfillan said.
Cr McIntosh said despite council’s so far unsuccessful efforts to lobby the state and federal government for funding, the current council was "adamant” the fernery project would be delivered.
“It is a very important space for council and for Ballarat and we really want to make sure we deliver something that is beautiful and something that is realistic too,” Cr McIntosh said.
“We want to be able to do it in an affordable manner, not with a budget that we don’t have.”