The sun was shining on the Australian Aird Lands Botanic Garden providing the perfect day to celebrate one of Port Augusta’s greatest assets’ 20th anniversary.
Established in 1993, the Garden officially opened in 1996, hosting a diverse collection of arid zone habitats stretched out across 250 hectares.
Its aims were and continue to research, conserve and promote the wider appreciation of Australia’s arid zone flora.
Friends of Arid Lands Botanic Garden President George Zwar said he’s gad he started young when working on the project which now brings 91,000 visitors annually.
“It’s really amazing for a site that was degraded bush and had been former rubbish dumps, it was basically waste bushland and used for other non-descript issues,” Goerge said.
After moving to Port Augusta in 1974 and establishing the Parks and Gardens Department for the Port Augusta Council, Mr Zwar played a pivotal role in Arid Lands’ formation.
“A few years later I applied for a Churchill Fellowship and was awarded one,”
“That allowed me to look at similar work (to Arid Lands) in dry areas of South America, the US, Israel and Southern Africa, looking at similar work to what i was doing here,” George said.
“I realised we had no one place where work can be researched and display our arid plants were centralised.”
In 1981 Mr Zwar proposed to the council an Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta.
The Friends of Arid Lands Botanic Garden was formed later as a legal entity and helped through fundraising and advocating for government grants.
Mr Zwar said support of $250,000 from former Australian mining company Western Mining Resources. $300,000 for the then state and federal governments and council’s $250,000 was pivotal for Arid Lands.
South Australian Tourism Industry Council Manager Shaun de Bruyn said in projects like Arid Lands are ‘fundamental’ in terms of future prosperity.
“As other industries decline and grow, tourism will be a constant growth industry and we know that on a global basis,” he said.
“...It creates jobs, it creates jobs for young people, in regional areas, it’s an opportunity for us to showcase our natural environment, to support local business, to preserve and conserve the environment and the places that we live in.”
Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said the day was a ‘special and proud event’ for Port Augusta.
He credited the great innovation and thanked key stakeholders in getting this project to where it is, complimenting the ‘positive brand’ Arid Lands brings to Port Augusta.