Wollongong council's 20-year makeover plans for Botanic Garden

Recreation and education: A new cafe with a botanical theme is proposed for near the duck pond. Picture: Adam McLean.
Recreation and education: A new cafe with a botanical theme is proposed for near the duck pond. Picture: Adam McLean.

Wollongong’s Botanic Garden will become home to a restaurant, function centre and new garden cafe, according to a 20-year plan to transform the site.

Wollongong City Council has unveiled draft plans to make the garden “regional garden of excellence”, and will also improve pedestrian and car access, move the main entry, refurbish the Sir Joseph Banks Glasshouse and complete a rainforest walk.

The draft master plan is designed to attract more visitors and provide a place of recreation for residents, while “making a valued contribution at a global level through our work in horticulture, plant conservation and environmental education”.

In a report to councillors, who will next week vote whether to put the draft plan out for public comment, council staff said many of the buildings and other assets in the 47-year-old garden were “nearing the end of their design life and require refurbishment or replacement”.

A number of other issues were identified by the consultants who put together the master plan.

For instance, they said it “reads as three separate spaces” not one cohesive garden, was hard to navigate and had no sense of arrival at the main entry.

As with all areas next to the university, parking and access have been labelled a problem, and the consultants also said climate change would need to be considered in future plant selections.

Sprouting ideas: Wollongong City Council has revealed its draft plans to transform the Botanic Garden over two decades. Picture: Georgia Matts.

Sprouting ideas: Wollongong City Council has revealed its draft plans to transform the Botanic Garden over two decades. Picture: Georgia Matts.

To fix these issues, the consultants have recommended installing a major new public entry from Northfields Avenue.

At present, they said this “presents as back of house, yet major scientific and conservation works occur here”, and a major reconstruction or refurbishment of the ageing depot is recommended.

To improve access and navigation, the garden would be split into precincts – the arrivals and operations areas, core collections and gardens, the “pleasure gardens” or recreation area, and a heritage and arts precinct around Gleniffer Brae.

The “middle creek” precinct would contain a new rainforest walk and woodland area, and the sixth precinct, at Kooloobong Ovals, would be retained as a sports and recreation area. 

As part of the need to “balance commercialism with environmentalism” two new eateries are proposed – a café and toilet facility near the Duck Pond and a café/restaurant in the refurbished Cratloe Cottage, which would have the Discovery Centre relocated.

The cafe “could have a cultural focus” with bush tucker food and seasonal flowers decorating the table, the consultants said. 

A new function centre has also been identified to the south of Gleniffer Brae.

If supported by councillors, the garden master plan will be placed on public exhibition for 28 days, with any feedback considered before the final plan is adopted.