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Canberra Facing Severe Droughts: Water and Cash

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA
5 November 2007

Canberra Botanic Garden is facing cuts in government funding, and is struggling to pay increasing water bills as drought afflicts the country. The gardens are the world’s largest living collection of Australian plants and contain about one-third of known Australian flowering plants. The gardens also jointly manage the National Herbarium and Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research with CSIRO and manage one of the largest seed banks of native species.

There are concerns that the water allocation is being prioritised for aesthetic reasons and plants along walkways and in wedding abckdrop areas are being watered before important research and conservation collections.

Water and electricity bills have soared as Australia has been facing several consecutive years of drought.

There are concerns that rare plants – including a wollemi pine – are dying. The Australian Native Plant Society is so concerned about the future scientific and cultural role of the gardens and ‘‘its vital role in Australia’s living heritage’’ it has taken the unprecedented step of urging its 10,000 members – many of whom are leading scientists – to lobby politicians over the crisis.

A Department of Environment and Water Resources spokeswoman said the department was reviewing the gardens’ role ‘‘in the light of climate change’’. A staff restructure is apparently underway, and a new plan aims to ‘‘switch focus’’ from growing and managing native plant collections to ‘‘national leadership in garden sustainability and water management’’.

The Gardens' current mission statement is "to grow, study and promote Australia's flora."

Read the full story on the Canberra Times 

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