This week we made a submission to Heritage Victoria regarding a permit for a six lot subdivision and creation of a public reserve at the Former Smiths Nursery site at Riddells Creek, in the Macedon Ranges.
The Former Smiths Nursery site is on the Victorian Heritage Register as one of Victoria’s earliest plant nurseries which played a significant role in the trade of Australian native plants and trees both cultivated and existing, sourced from the slopes of Mt Macedon. The old nursery site and display garden are clearly evident at the site with a wide range of plantings arranged in rows. The site contains the potential for further archaeological investigation that may reveal information regarding operation of the nursery and mid-century nursery practice in Victoria. The site is located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri and contains Areas of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Sensitivity, particularly important given its proximity to the Riddells Creek.
The site has had minimal active use in recent years which has highlighted the need for conservation work to be undertaken as a priority at this site. The current proposal as documented in the exhibited Heritage Impact Statement is “to create a six lot subdivision and creation of reserve, provision of services (telecommunications, electricity, water, water management, water treatment systems and drainage) and removal and pruning of vegetation.”
The National Trust is generally comfortable with the proposal as it will see conservation and ongoing maintenance of this heritage place along with the creation of a public reserve containing features of high significance. Of note is that the reserve contains the most significant features of vegetation across the site, particularly those that relate directly to the site’s use as an early nursery. We made a recommendation that the finalising of an agreement between the landholder and the Macedon Ranges Shire Council to take control of the land be a permit condition should this proposal be approved.The creation of a public reserve provides an opportunity for the preparation of an interpretation strategy to engage the public visitor to the garden. Given the range of cultural heritage significance in this area, a wide range of interpretation could be undertaken, including Aboriginal use and connections to the site, vegetation and landform interpretation, the development of the site as Smiths Nursery display garden, connections of the site to the role of trade in Australian native plants, interpretation of archaeological features, and the season variations of the site (for example the flowering of bulbs at particular times of the year). We submitted that interpretation of the Aboriginal cultural heritage should be undertaken via meaningful consultation with the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council and any other relevant Traditional Owner Groups. We made further submissions regarding the potential impact of the subdivided lots on the adjoining public reserve, and supporting the conservation of the original driveway garden landscaping.