Have say on Camperdown botanic gardens precinct

From the air: The Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum in an aerial photograph from Corangamite Shire that features in the draft conservation management plan for the precinct.
From the air: The Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum in an aerial photograph from Corangamite Shire that features in the draft conservation management plan for the precinct.

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On one side there’s a public garden and parkland with 150 years of history, on the other is Camperdown’s only holiday park and its untapped potential.

Both sides of the debate can agree on one thing – there’s no other place quite like it. But should they co-exist?

Perched between Camperdown’s twin crater lakes, the Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum offers breathtaking views over the water and the surrounding countryside – it’s easy to see why the town’s early settlers chose to reserve this space for a public park and why it was a labour of love for renowned landscaper William Guilfoyle. 

In the 1960s, caravanning was all the rage and a holiday park was added to the arboretum – the treed area surrounding the botanic gardens. 

Less than 20 years later it was noted that the caravan park’s addition had “noticeably compromised” the area’s visual amenity. It’s an argument that continues. 

Further development of the Lakes and Craters Holiday Park has been restricted due to the site’s heritage listing. A plan to add further cabins, a pool and amenities block were knocked back last year.

Many, including Corangamite Shire, have said developing the caravan park will provide economic and tourism benefits. Others have questioned the legitimacy of a commercial operation on Crown land with heritage values.

In developing a draft conservation management plan, consultants Context acknowledged the conflict the caravan park’s location presented. 

The plan identifies the park as a “potential threat” to the site’s cultural and heritage value and described the camping venue as being of “incompatible use” with the surrounding area.

Corangamite Shire mayor Jo Beard said the plan could have a major impact on council finances and the future of the Lakes and Craters Holiday Park.

“The constraints on making any future upgrades or improvements to the holiday park, even its future operation, will be enormous – the implications are huge,” she said.

Aside from the holiday park, the management plan maps out conservation and improvements for the gardens precinct totalling $2.5 million over 10 years.

“There are nearly 70 actions requiring quite a significant level of investment by council – that will be the expectation once this plan is adopted,” Cr Beard said.

Projects include rebuilding the former rotunda, restoring the caretaker’s cottage, reinstating a shelter at the car park lookout and creating alternate access from Park Road.

The conservation management plan was drafted in consultation with Corangamite Shire, Heritage Victoria, The National Trust of Australia and the Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust.

Cr Beard encouraged people to make submissions to the draft plan.

“I think it is really important for members of the community and different user groups to have their say,” she said.

“Tell us what you think. We want to ensure any decision on the botanic gardens including the holiday park reflects the best interests of the wider community.”

Feedback can be emailed to CamperdownCMP@corangamite.vic.gov.au or mailed to Corangamite Shire, PO Box 84, Camperdown, 3260. Submissions close May 21.

The draft plan can be viewed on the Corangamite Shire website, at the Camperdown Civic Centre and town libraries.