Camperdown's historic gardens a chance to grow tourism

Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust's Janet O'Hehir.
Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust's Janet O'Hehir.

Camperdown’s botanic gardens and surrounding parkland are an overlooked gem that could draw growing crowds of garden tourists to the region, a supporter for the site says.

Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust secretary Janet O’Hehir said garden tourism was growing across the globe and the historic site could occupy a unique place in the market.

“This is a site that is really, really special. There is no site like this botanic garden that I know of anywhere. Everyone in the botanic garden network knows that, but here people just take it for granted,” she said.

“Western Victoria has got such opportunities. Just in the last week I’ve had three groups, about 150 people, look at the gardens. They come from Melbourne, from the local region, from Ballarat – there’s just a huge interest.”

Ms O’Hehir said the gardens were not currently reaching their full potential due to a lack of funding and the caravan park and grazing within the arboretum.

She hopes the draft conservation management plan (CMP) will be the first step in changing that.

“Corangamite Shire is focused on improving tourism, on improving economic opportunities for local businesses and improving livability to the community and attracting people to live there and if you invest in something like an important public park then you’re investing in all those things,” Ms O’Hehir said.

“You can’t just spend no money, it’s actually of economic benefit to open up all those other opportunities.”

Ms O’Hehir said the draft plan was an important acknowledgement of the heritage and cultural value of the site and showed its value went beyond the fenced botanic gardens.

“The CMP just highlights the fact that the heritage listing is for 25 hectares, it’s not just the little round garden – it’s a big park with a small garden at the centre.

“It’s the public park that has been lost when you do things like give it to people for caravans and cattle, that’s the bit that people don’t often understand.”

Ms O’Hehir said the plan strengthened the argument that the caravan park should be removed from the arboretum. 

“The consultants, who are highly regarded heritage consultants, have assessed the value of the caravan park as being of nil significance and a threat to the place, which it clearly is,” she said.

“It says it’s a threat to the conservation of the place, it’s a threat to the aesthetic values of the place, if nothing else. Anyone can see that when they walk in the gate.

“It’s a tragedy. People don’t know what they’re losing, that it’s a public park.

“You can put a caravan park anywhere, because it’s a functional thing… but you can’t replicate a 150-year-old park anywhere else.”

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

Feedback can be emailed to or mailed to Corangamite Shire, PO Box 84, Camperdown, 3260. Submissions close May 21.