The new mock Gothic fernery entrance in Ballarat's Botanical Gardens is an eye-catching building without a doubt.
With the construction barriers now removed, a closer inspection can be made of the grand, wooden structure facing Wendouree Parade.
After years in the pipeline, the ornate timber slats wrapped around a steel frame are bound to be noticed by those familiar with the gardens and the casual visitor alike.
Designed in the mould of the original 19th century Batten fernery, it stands sentinel over an empty space to the rear where the old, delipidated fernery stood until its demolition in 2019.
This, it is hoped, is where a new building to house a fern collection will one day be built - and where a new fern display is planned.
But a wander around its perimeter may prompt a few questions. The new entrance towers over the front; part of the gardens magnificent collection skirts the northern boundary, dotted with exotic species, including imposing Exeter elms.
They wrap around the edge to an older structure. On the southern side the long stretch of pond stretches all the way back to the new entrance.
Given these substantial barriers, how then, will equipment get in for any future fernery works?
It is a concern openly expressed by the Friends of the Botanical Gardens.
In their first newsletter this year, the outgoing president Bill Selkirk wrote this:
"It is rather unfortunate that the redevelopment of the Fernery has commenced at the Wendouree Parade end, instead of starting at the western end and progressing in an easterly direction."
"This oversight will restrict construction access and add extra cost to the construction of Stage 2."
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It is the latest issue to be raised in a project that has not had the smoothest of rides. A report by the City of Ballarat's internal auditors, Pitcher Partners, concluded councillors had "clear line of sight" of the project - the renewal of the fernery was assessed as a priority project in the Lake Wendouree masterplan.
However, there were numerous criticisms of the project in the report: that it had no clear business plan, nor was the scope of the project ever set out in detail, and that it went over budget.
The fernery had a funding allocation of $1.4 million in the 2015 council budget, which The Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens said in a newsletter would allow a "complete remodelling" of outdated older structure.
Construction work of the entrance, which does not include any ferns or anywhere to contain them, cost $270,000 than that budget.
City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King said: "The question around access is valid and something to be carefully considered in any future stages of the project."
He also said the position of the entrance was determined by the plans approved by Heritage Victoria, saying they "required the fernery to be built in its current position".
Further work would be dependent on funding opportunities and council approval, he said.
The president of the Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens Terry O'Brien said the uncertainty over future works was "disappointing". He called the closed entrance and lack of fernery "a big embarrassment for Ballarat", while acknowledging that it was a challenge not of the current council's making.
Mr King said: "There is no doubt there have been learnings from this project, as there should be from every project we undertake.
"My priority is how we move forward with an ongoing focus on good governance around project management."
April 2015: Friends of Botanical Garden appeal to city council for help
March 2016: Ballarat's fernery set for redevelopment
June 2018: Gothic structure to go to council for approval
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