Selection of the STEP Site

The selection of the STEP block was undertaken by John Nightingale, STEP Committee member 2007/08. His assessment is published below.

John has a degree in Science from the University of Sydney, a Diploma in Horticulture from Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and a Graduate Diploma in Landscape Design from the University of Canberra.  He worked at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, from 1989 to 2003, in various positions including Glasshouse Manager, Gardens Supervisor, and Curator of Living Collections.  For much of this period he also taught horticulture part-time at CIT. 

From 2003 to early 2005, John was Curator of Botany at the Alice Springs Desert Park, a combined botanic and zoological park representing three desert ecosystems, with interpretive displays and professional guides.  John returned to Canberra in 2006, and at the time of his membership of the STEP Committee was working for Capital Indoor Plant Hire and ‘The Garden’ retail chain, continuing a long association from his early days in Canberra, as well as teaching horticultural subjects at CIT and undertaking occasional design consultancies.

A Comparison of Blocks 100, 101 and 102

For the purpose of design and construction of the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park


Description: Gently contoured small valley with a general northerly aspect; relatively low in the landscape with slopes rising to the south, east and west; adjoins Block 101 which rises up from its north –west edge.


  • Have greater design control over visual horizons to the south, east and west
  • A wider range of planting microclimates with varying exposures to sunlight and the prevailing winds (particularly in the lea of the western ridgeline)
  • As a result of the varying aspects of the site there is improved capacity to create shady and sunny sites with a framework of trees to better represent a range of different ecosystems and microclimates.
  • Good medium and longer range views over relict woodland to a dominant hill (name unknown at this time) in the distance.
  • Solid connection, physically and visually, with adjacent relict woodland  (context, interpretation and restoration)
  • Opportunities for design along broad contours with water harvesting through contour banks; incorporation of seasonal and permanent water features; and, the construction of gently sloping pathways that move visitors through different ecosystem representations and down to a relatively flat resting/ interpretation/ picnic area at the bottom.
  • The site includes some rock outcrops which could be incorporated into the design and which could provide a focus for interpretation as reptile habitat.
  • Not as big as the other blocks (101 and 102) – smaller scale, less expense and easier to implement design.


  • Not contiguous with  Eucalyptus benthamii  block


Description: North/ north-east aspected slope; moderately steep, rising c.18 metres from its lowest, most northerly, point to a ridgeline on its south-westerly edge; adjoins and rises above Block 100 on its north-east border; adjoins Block 102 at a ridgeline on its south-west edge.


  • Contiguous with Eucalyptus benthamii  block
  • Good medium and longer range views over relict woodland
  • Solid connection, physically and visually, with adjacent relict woodland; better quality of remnant trees than for the other blocks immediately adjacent to its northerly border.
  • Larger size may provide opportunities for larger ecosystem and microclimate representations.


  • Because the site is generally northerly aspected with a ridge line to the north-west and adjoining Block 100 on its north-east border, this site has less intrinsic design control over the visual horizons.
  • With its more regular aspect, facing north/ north-east, this block has less diversity in planting microclimates.
  • Because this site is steeper than Block 100 and has a more uniform aspect there is less opportunity for the creation of contour banks, for water harvesting and for the creation of pedestrian friendly pathways.
  • The centre of the northwest facing boundary is defined by a broad indented notch; more difficult to design around such an indentation.


Description: Relatively steep, westerly aspected slope; rising c.15 metres from its lowest, most westerly point to adjoin Block 101 at a ridgeline on its north-eastern edge.


  • Excellent long distance views of the Brindabella Ranges; moderately good medium distance rural views.


  • High power transmission lines running across the main viewfield severely reduce the amenity of this site.
  • The site is relatively remote and disconnected from the core of Arboretum.
  • Not such a direct connection with remnant woodland on its northerly border.
  • The steeper, generally western facing aspect limits planting microclimates; reduces opportunities for the creation of contour banks and water harvesting; and, makes the creation of pedestrian friendly pathways more difficult.” John Nightingale 2008.

Preparation of the site planting

  • Similar to the rest of the Arboretum site, Block 100 contained burnt remnants of stumps and regrowth of Pinus radiata, which had been an ACT Government pine plantation covering the area prior to the Canberra bushfire in 2003. In spring 2008, STEP members commenced weeding and lopping the pine trees down to the stump level on the STEP site. Later, the NAC removed the stumps and debris on the site but in accordance with STEP’s wishes, provided protection for the wildings.
  • With funding assistance from the Arboretum Project Team, Warren Saunders, the Director of Seeds and Plants Australia, shallow ploughed the site and planted rye grass, local native grasses and herbs to stabilise the soil before planting of the trees species commenced.

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