AGY-1820 | Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust

NSW State Archives Collection
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The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust was constituted as a corporation by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act, 1980 (Act No. 19, 1980) which received assent on 12 April 1980 and was proclaimed to commence on 1 July 1980. (1) The Trust consisted of five trustees appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Minister. (2)

The Principal objects of the Trust were to -
a) maintain and improve the Trust lands, National Herbarium, and plant collections owned by the Trust;
b) increase and disseminate knowledge with respect to the plant life of Australia and New South Wales in particular;
c) encourage the use and enjoyment of the Trust lands by the public by promoting the educational, historical, cultural and recreational value of the lands; and
d) encourage advance the study of systematic botany. (3)

The responsibilities of the Trust included
Authorising the use of the whole or any part of the Trust lands for scientific, educational, historical, cultural or recreational purposes;
Providing for the sale or provision of food on the Trust and lands and applying for licenses or permits in connection with this;
Procuring specimens or scientific data consistent with its objects either from within or outside New South Wales;
Maintaining (or making arrangements for) the maintenance of the property of the Trust;
Carrying out surveys, assembling collections and engaging in scientific research with respect to botany and horticulture;
Disseminating scientific information to the public, educational and scientific institutions in New South Wales or beyond;
Promoting and providing exhibits. Lectures, films, publication and other kinds of educational instruction relating to botany or ornamental horticulture;
Charging or receiving fees in connection with services provided, articles sold, or permissions granted in pursuance of its objects. The proceeds of these charges are to be the property of the Trust; and
Entering into any contract or arrangement for the purpose of promoting the objects of the Trust. (4)
The Trust controlled and managed its own properties and could acquire properties agreeing to any conditions being imposed on the acquisition if these were not contrary to the objects of the Trust. (5)

The Trust could establish committees to assist in carrying out its powers, authorities, duties or functions. Membership or the committees was not restricted to Trustees, (6) and the Trust could also establish branches or departments to manage the Trust lands. (7)

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust could in no way dispose of the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain or the Mount Tomah annexe to the Botanic Gardens (8) but other property acquired by it could be disposed of with the permission of the Governor or in accordance with any conditions of its acquisition. (9)

The Trust appointed a Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain who was responsible for the administration and management of the Trust Lands and services. The Director was subject to the control and direction of the Trust. (10) The Trust also appointed a secretary and other staff as were necessary to carry out its functions. (11)

The Governor could make regulations on a range of matters pertaining to the use of the Trust lands, the protection of plant life, birds and animals on the properties, determination of fees, and the meetings, committees and use of the common seal of the Trust. (12)

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act No.9, 1983) increased the number of trustees from five to seven. (13) The amending Act was proclaimed to commence on 22 April 1983. (14)

Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act, No. 3, 1985 (assented to 19 March 1985) allowed the Government to vest additional land to the care of the Trust. (15) At this time the aims of the Botanic Gardens were as follows:
(i) National Herbarium of New South Wales:
To maintain the State’s major botanical research and reference specimen collection;
To conduct research in botanical systematics;
To study the biogeography and ecology of the Australian flora; and
To conduct survey and map the natural vegetation of New South Wales.

(ii) The Botanic Gardens
To increase awareness and understanding of plants as part of the natural world;
To display a wide diversity of plants of horticultural and botanical interest;
To provide information, education and advice on plants;
To be an area of beauty and quiet recreation;
To grow and display rare and endangered species; and
To preserve features of historic importance in its unique site.

(iii) The Domain
To be part of the pleasing “breathing space” of Sydney and a buffer zone between the Gardens and city development;
To provide a venue for a wide range of community activities; and
To be a place of interest and history, a link in Sydney’s “Cultural Crescent”.

(iv) Mount Tomah
To develop a botanic garden specialising in cool-temperature plants particularly those of the Southern hemisphere and
To provide an area of beauty and of scientific, educational and horticultural interest.

(v) Mount Annan
To grow and display a wide range of Australian native plants, developing a collection of national importance as a resource for scientific study, education and conservation;
To increase awareness and understanding of Australia’s flora; and
To provide an area for passive recreation and a place of beauty and interest and to carry out horticultural and other research on the living plant collections. (16)

By 30 June 1986 the gardens were organised as follows: the Director reported both to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Secretary of the Premier’s Department. The administration of the agency was divided into four branches- Scientific Division; Living Collections Division; Community Relations Division and Secretariat. The Scientific Division consisted of systematics section; ecology section; herbarium services section and the Library. The Living Collections Division consisted of horticultural management; horticultural botany; gardens services and domain section, Mount Tomah Section and Mount Annan Section. (17) The Mount Tomah Gardens were acquired by the Botanic Gardens from Effie and Alfred Brunet in 1972. (18) The Mount Annan Gardens were transferred from the Macarthur Development Board in 1984. (19) The opening of these regional gardens to the public were Commonwealth/ State Bicentennial Projects. Mount Tomah opened on 1 November 1987 as the ‘curtain raiser’ of the various bicentennial projects and to show the garden at the peak of its spring flowering. (20) Mount Annan opened in October 1988. (21)

The Trust reported was the Premier portfolio until 22 August 1986 when this responsibility was transferred to the Minister for Heritage although the Minister for Environment and Planning became responsible deeds of lease relating to the Domain. (22) This arrangement continued until 15 April 1988 when the Minister for the Environment assumed responsibility for the agency. (23)

By 30 June 1992 the following Trust Committees were Operational Budget and Finance; Corporate Relations; Education and Scientific. The Scientific and Living Collections branches continued but the secretariat and community relations branches had merged to become the Corporate Services branch. (24)

Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act, 1996 (Act No 20 1996) provided for plant conservation to be included as a principal object of the Trust. (25) The Act also enabled removal of parts of the Domain occupied by extensions to the Art Gallery from the Trust lands (26) but authorised the use of the former naval fuel installation for purposes recommended by the Trust. The Act gave the Trust more flexibility in managing its commercial outlets by deleting specific references to occupancies subject to lease, validated existing licenses, clarified legal procedures and the issue of fines enabling the introduction of ‘on the spot’ fines for littering and parking offences, and generally undated the terminology of the Act and corrected inconsistencies with other legislation. (27) The amending legislation was proclaimed to commence on 21 February 1997. (28)

The basic structure of the administration had remained unchanged (although had steadily become more complex) for most of the history of the Trust until 1999. At 30 June 1999 there were three major branches - Plant Sciences, Corporate Services and Botanic Gardens branches. Each of these branches was led by an assistant director. The Plant Sciences branch consisted of the Herbarium and the following sections - Systematic Botany, Ecology, Horticultural Research, Botanical Information Service, Technical Programs and the library. The Botanical Gardens Branch was sub divided into a section for each garden. Each garden had the following sub-branches: horticultural development, horticultural services. The Sydney gardens had a Technical and Landscape Services Division and a nursery. Mount Tomah and Mount Annan had a gardens services, ranger services and a gardens shop, an Mount Annan had a Nursery in addition to these. The Sydney Gardens had a sub-branch known as Domain and Government House. The Government House gardens were not officially a responsibility of the Royal Botanic Gardens, but the staff had always tended the gardens there. The marketing unit reported immediately to the Director while the community education sub-branch came under the Botanic Gardens branch. The Corporate service branch consisted of finance, human resources, design and editorial services, information technology, business services, security services, events management and gardens shop (presumably Sydney). (29)

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust was abolished as a Department of the Public Service by the Public Sector Employment and Management (Environment and Conservation) Order 2003, which transferred the branches of the Trust to the Department of Environment and Conservation. (30)

In January 2014 the NSW Government announced that the operational staff from the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust would integrate with operational staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. The operating name for the new administrative entity was subsequently confirmed as Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands. This integration process was successfully completed in 2015-16. The Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands organisation was continued until July 2020 when the trust was separated back to its original format. (31)

The Trust established the Australian Institute of Botanical Science Advisory Council (AIBSAC) in January 2021 and in March 2021, launched the Australian Institute of Botanical Science. (32)

In March 2022, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust was transferred to Transport for NSW under the Minister of Cities. (33)

The new National Herbarium of New South Wales and its collection of over 1 million plant specimens was officially opened by the Hon Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Cities, on 5 April 2022. To safeguard the collection, which also included historical plant specimens, the State Government supported the construction of the Herbarium facility with a $60 million investment in 2018. Previously located at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney for almost 170 years, the new Herbarium now joins the Australian PlantBank and extensive Living Collection of native plants at Mount Annan. (34)

On 1 July 2023 the Trust was removed from the Department of Transport and transferred to the Department of Planning and Environment. (35)

1. NSW Government Gazette No.89, 27 June 1980, p.3210.
2. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act, 1980 s.6.
3. Ibid. s.7.
4. Ibid. s.8(1)
5. Ibid. s.8(2)-(3).
6. Ibid. s. 8 (7)-(8).
7. Ibid s.8(9).
8. Ibid s.9.
9. Ibid s.10.
10. Ibid s.12 (a) and s.13.
11. Ibid. s.12 (b) and (c).
12. Ibid. s.22.
13. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act, 1983 Schedule (1).
14. NSW Government Gazette No.63, 22 April 1983, p.1828.
15. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act, 1985 Schedule (1).
16. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Annual Report 1985-1986 p.6.
17. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Annual Report 1985-1986 p.45.
18. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney website, Mount Tomah, (accessed 16 December 2004).
19. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney website, Mount Annan, (accessed 16 December 2004).
20. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Annual Report 1986-1987, p.17.
21. Ibid., p.18.
22. NSW Government Gazette No.134, 22 August 1986, p.4089.
23. NSW Government Gazette No.74, 15 April 1988, p.2273.
24. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Annual Report 1991-1992, pp.13-14.
25. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (Amendment) Act 1996 Schedule 1 (amendment to section 7 of the Principal act).
26. Ibid. s.5.
27. Report of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust for the year ended 30 June 1996, pp.12-13.
28. NSW Government Gazette No.20, 21 February 1997, p.799.
29. Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Annual report for the year ended 30 June 1999, p.11.
30. Public Sector Employment and Management (Environment and Conservation) Order 2003 Part 8 in NSW Government Gazette No.152, 24 September 2003, p.9507.
31. Centennial Parklands, Annual Report 2020-2021, p.64.
32. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Annual Report 2020-2021, p.6.
33. Administrative Arrangements (Administrative Changes - Miscellaneous) Order 2022 (2022 No 84), NSW Legislation website, 16 March 2022.
34.Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust, Annual Report 2021-2022, p. 12.
35. Administrative Arrangements (Administrative Changes—Miscellaneous) Order (No 5) 2023 (2023 No 345), cl.15; NSW Legislation website, 30 June 2023.

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