Preserving botanical heritage

Article image - Preserving botanical heritage Workers remove a hazardous tree in the Hamilton Botanic Gardens, identified through the use of the Arborplan tree management system.

The Southern Grampians Shire has implemented a digital solution to help manage its beloved heritage-listed trees.

The Shire is home to one of the most intact examples of 19th Century Botanic Gardens in all Victoria. Located in Hamilton, the gardens were designed by William Guilfoyle, one of Australia’s greatest garden designers and long-time director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

The Hamilton Botanic Gardens include an impressive display of 19th century heritage-listed trees, an ornamental lake, a walk-through bird aviary and a caretaker’s cottage dating back to the 1870s.

In May 2015, Council adopted a Masterplan to guide the development of the gardens over the next ten years, providing structure for future works and management.

One of the key recommendations in the Masterplan was the need for an improved tree management process, including annual tree inspections by qualified arborists.

Inspections were being conducted reactively, which was becoming an issue as the age of the trees in the gardens increased, jeopardising the longevity of the heritage trees in particular.

There had been several incidences of limbs falling from the older trees, endangering residents and staff.

In early 2016, Council engaged the services of Aborsafe and has now begun using their tree management software to assist with scheduling of works and risk assessments. The software provides Council with a positive plan for the retention and management of the trees within the gardens.

The entire site has been surveyed and each tree in the Gardens has been identified and tagged, with 266 currently under management in the system. These trees are assessed on an annual basis by a qualified arborist, detailing each tree’s attributes, hazards present and using OH&S methodology to assess the risks of injury or damage. The arborist specifies work actions for the next 12 months for each tree and provides a timeline and budget estimate of the works required.

The system allows managers to view data on any tree in the gardens at any time (via an aerial map) and provides clear guidance on works required, while building a history of works completed over time.

Council Team Leader Works Brett Holmes says the software is a great resource that has made a huge difference to the way his parks and gardens team manages the Botanic Gardens.

“Using this system is a really proactive approach to tree management, scheduling of works and budgeting.

“Not only do we get an accurate condition report of each tree but we are able to build a history of works and money spent on individual trees which helps with future planning and budget requirements.”   

Council is pleased to have found an innovative solution to manage and maintain these historically significant gardens to ensure they remain a well-loved part of the Hamilton landscape for many generations to come.