STEP’s partnership with the Arboretum?

By Wurmbea 

Many people have asked us why STEP has partnered with the Canberra International Arboretum and Gardens?  Our relationship with the Arboretum began in 2006, when the ACT Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment commenced public consultations for Shaping Our Territory, with a view to formulating future planning controls for the ACT. 

Among other issues, the Report considered wild – life corridors, nature parks and the future planning for areas such as the burned out pine plantations along the Tuggeranong Parkway. The Standing Committee invited representatives from STEP to meet with them to discuss possibilities for a site for STEP. These discussions proved very successful.  When the Standing Committee made its recommendations in May 2006, it urged the Shaping Our Territory Working Group to assess the feasibility of incorporating key elements of the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park in the Canberra International Arboretum and Gardens project. After some delays in getting started, STEP commenced discussions with the Chief Minister’s Office in March 2007, with a view to establishing a regional botanic park in association with the Canberra International Arboretum and Gardens (the Arboretum).  As these discussions progressed STEP realised the many points of synergy between our vision and the Arboretum.       

What are the synergies?

STEP is attracted by the opportunities in the Arboretum’s marvellous public spaces for involving the community in its entertainment and educational facilities: the Arboretum is a vast public park comprising 250 hectares of walking paths, roads, viewing platforms and picnic areas for the use of present and future generations. It is easy to see how well the STEP garden could fit within this space as a smaller harmonious unit within the overall Arboretum, sharing its amenities and resources such as learning spaces, events areas and picnic places.

STEP’s goals fit well with those of the Arboretum. An important goal of the Arboretum is to contribute to international research programmes for iconic and threatened tree species. This goal aligns well with STEP’s vision to present a display of local threatened and endangered species to international visitors and provide information to groups who visit the Arboretum and wish to share in our research and leaning activities.

STEP’s  purpose is to be a botanic garden and ecosystems centre. The Arboretum is a special purpose botanic garden, with protocols for research conservation for trees and plants and for recording seed provenance with a view to contributing to international research programmes for iconic and threatened tree species. STEP shares all these goals with the Arboretum and in later stages of our project we will develop a program for sharing information about the endangered ecosystems of the Southern Tablelands with national and international bodies concerned with conservation of regional ecosystems.

STEP needed to have a central location with connectivity to nature reserves and wildlife corridors. The location of the Arboretum brings the STEP project into direct connection with a huge wildlife corridor, whilst still being close to the city. This connectivity joins the Aranda Bushland, with the western verge of Black Mountain, the eastern edge of the Molonglo Valley and to the open areas of grasslands around the verges of Lake Burley Griffin.

STEP is also seeking an opportunity to conserve a natural ecosystem.  The north western corner of the Arboretum affords such an opportunity to STEP. We have moved quickly to propose a plan to ACT Planning and Land Authority that would intersect the STEP blocks on the north western corner of the Arboretum with a parcel of land that includes some remnant grassy woodland on what is currently a lease holding adjoining the Arboretum.