On Tuesday 23 June the stakeholder agencies responsible for the management and review of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens hosted an online information session.
The information session was live streamed via YouTube and was followed by a live Q&A session. Registered participants could ask questions to the panel, and have their pre-registered questions answered.
All questions asked before and during the live presentation have been posted and answered below.
Q&As from online information session
Q. Could the Carlton Gardens be transformed into world class style and maintenance? The Carlton Gardens are very much a poor cousin to the Fitzroy Gardens.
A. Fitzroy Gardens and Carlton Gardens are maintained to the same service agreement but they are very different gardens. The style of Fitzroy Gardens is much more intensive horticulture as part of its heritage fabric, compared to Carlton Gardens, which is much more open. The Draft Heritage Management Plan for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens – which is currently out for comment via the website – draws out the significant elements of Carlton Gardens. The two gardens are maintained to a similar standard but are different gardens. One of the key elements of the Carlton Gardens is its long-standing use as an exhibition space.
Q. Could consideration be given to the reinstatement of sections of the original iron fence to the Carlton Gardens (which was removed in the 1930s)?
A. It is not council’s policy to fence off public gardens as maintaining access is important. The Draft Heritage Management Plan does not recommend the reinstatement of the original iron fence to the external boundary. It does suggest considering – in certain circumstances – the reinstatement of fencing around some internal features such as garden beds. This will be considered as we develop the draft Master Plan.
Q. Why not have an off-leash area at the North end?
A. We will consider all possibilities in the review of the Carlton Gardens Master Plan. We are also simultaneously undertaking a strategic review of dogs in open space across the municipality. At this stage we cannot say whether this will lead to an off-leash area in the north end of Carlton Gardens or somewhere else in the inner city. Engagement on the review of dogs in public open space has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q. Regarding the Northern portion of the Carlton Gardens, what work has been done to ascertain how close the present plan and planting are to the 1880 original layout?
A. This is covered in the Draft Heritage Management Plan. Over time the northern part of the gardens has evolved as a less formal place, and features a play-space and sporting facilities and as such serves a really important function for the neighbouring community. We’ll review the recommendations of the Heritage Management Plan in line with developing the draft Carlton Gardens Master Plan and see what opportunities arise.
Q. How will the partnering organisations make sure the public consultation is marketed widely to capture a good range of responses?
A. The Engage Victoria website is hosting the review of the World Heritage Management Plan and its associated documents, and the website is being promoted by all stakeholder agencies. This platform is used for many Victorian Government consultations and will therefore be familiar to many people and the location that people will expect to find information about the review and consultation.
To ensure people are aware of the consultation, a letter and postcard was sent to all properties in the WHEA, and many properties surrounding the WHEA. Additionally, people and organisations with a known interest in the site and the consultation were emailed directly, and all stakeholder agencies have used their networks to advise that the consultation has commenced.
Social media is being used to promote the consultation throughout the eight week period, and signage has been placed at key locations throughout the Carlton Gardens. Stakeholder agencies have displayed the postcards at other events to further promote the process.
Q. Will adverse impacts on Carlton Gardens flora be assessed before the next Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS)? When was the last assessment made? Was MIFGS assessed as a partial contributory to replanting in the South garden areas due to soil compression or related factors?
A. The Gardens are inspected before, during set up, immediately after and three months after the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) every year. This is so that the City of Melbourne can be satisfied that any damage caused either immediately or even months after the event can be rectified and that the event organisers do rectify any damage.
Q. Will consideration be given to using hard surfaces and distance from trees on the siting of future events including MIFGS?
A. City of Melbourne has initiated requirements to modify infrastructure over the years such as elevated decks or specific type of matting to reduce the compaction on the grass. This has had a beneficial impact on the state of the grass and the landscape following the event and we have found negligible soil compaction after the event over the last few years.
Any works within a tree protection zone must be done to a tree protection plan and in the presence of an arborist.
While there is an impact on the gardens from MIFGS, we believe the impacts and rectification measures are managed well.
Any events held on the site also need approval under the Heritage Act. These will have permit conditions which are actively monitored by Heritage Victoria.
Q. Can the governance structure and the management structure for the World Heritage site and Environs Area be changed for radical improvement please?
A. The governance structure for a place that is included in the World Heritage List and recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register is set out in the Heritage Act 2017. The relevant section of the Heritage Act is section 181(2) which states:
The Steering Committee for a listed place consists of—
(a) the Executive Director who is the Chairperson; and
(b) if the listed place is Crown land or land vested in a Minister or public authority, any persons who are responsible for the management of the listed place and who are appointed by the Minister; and
(c) in the case of any listed place on other land, any person who is the owner or occupier or is concerned in the management of the listed place and who is appointed by the Minister; and
(d) any other persons that the Minister considers appropriate.
The Steering Committee for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens is currently comprised of the following people:
Steven Avery, Heritage Victoria (Chair)
Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria
Emma Appleton, City of Melbourne
Felicity Watson, National Trust of Australia (Victoria) - non-voting
Richa Swarup, City of Yarra - non-votingThere are no plans to amend this section of the Heritage Act. However, as part of this consultation, people can make a submission on the membership of the Steering Committee if there are groups or interests that people believe ought to be considered as part of the Steering Committee composition.
Q. Could all members of the governance structures have voting rights?
A. People are encouraged to make a submission on this topic setting out reasons why voting rights should be considered for all members.
Q. Are there plans to include additional community members to the Steering Committee to add skills, expertise and balance? If not, why not.
A. There are no plans at present to change the membership of the Steering Committee. People are encouraged to make a submission on this topic setting out reasons why the membership of the Steering Committee should be considered for expansion.
Q. Will the Steering Committee have State level management controls and make all decisions related to statutory and operational factors in line with other World Heritage sites in Australia?
A. There are no plans at present to change the responsibilities of the Steering Committee beyond those set out in the Victorian Heritage Act 2017. As part of the review of the World Heritage Strategy Plan for the WHEA, there may be recommended changes to how planning controls are currently operating which may include recommendations for increased intervention by the State Government in planning decisions affecting properties in the WHEA.
Q.Can we expect a Discussion Paper of the old CMP as the basis of this review? Or do we simply start with the submissions we and other stakeholders will make in July?
A. The draft Heritage Management Plan which is currently available on the Engage Victoria website has been the result of the review and updating of the 2007/8 Conservation Management Plan. The new nomenclature is consistent with the requirements of the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, which governs all Australian World Heritage site management. The EPBC Act can be viewed at https://www.environment.gov.au/epbc .
While consistent with the earlier CMP, the conservation and management policies have been reviewed and in some cases revised or expanded.
Q. Is any consultant or other agency preparing a review of the governance structure with the aim of ensuring oversight of the entire World Heritage Environs Area (WHEA) as a whole (comprising the WHEA, the Carlton Gardens and the REB)?
A. The governance is complex due to the site having two authorities responsible for its day to day management, being Museums Victoria and the City of Melbourne, and also with the site and its surrounds spanning two municipalities. The legislative instruments required to manage the site exist at both State and Commonwealth levels, so this also contributes to a complex governance structure.
There is not currently a review of the governance structure specifically, however the overall management of the site will be considered as part of the review of the World Heritage Management Plan. There are no plans to amend the section of the Heritage Act 2017 that requires the appointment of a Steering Committee.
As part of the review of the World Heritage Strategy Plan for the WHEA, there may be recommended changes to how planning controls are currently operating to ensure the appropriate protection of the world heritage values of the site and to improve oversight and decision making; this may include recommendations for increased intervention by the State Government in planning decisions affecting properties in the WHEA.
Q. Is there a fire risk in the largely timber REB due to Museum storage in the REB basement? Why is that acceptable?
A. The risk of fire for the Royal Exhibition building is well managed. The Royal Exhibition Building’s fire suppression systems meet all modern requirements, are checked regularly and were upgraded as part of the recent Protection and Promotion Project. The Royal Exhibition Building basement is no longer used as a museum collection store; the museum collections previously housed here were removed prior to the recent Protection and Promotion Project. The basement is used for storage of some material that is required for the building to be able to operate effectively as an event and exhibition venue, one of these items are particularly combustible and the storage is not over crowded.
Q. Can the new $20m viewing platform be open 9am to 5pm seven days a week for the public and tourists? If not, why not?
A. Museums Victoria is currently developing an interpretation experience for visitors to the Royal Exhibition Building. This experience will be located in the basement of the building, where collections where formerly stored, but were relocated in 2018. The basement space will be connected to a viewing area within the building on the Gallery level as well as a rooftop Promenade outside the Dome by a dedicated stair and lift.
The experience will cover a range of narratives from the REB and Carlton Garden’s past, including First Peoples’ perspective. It is planned that the experience will open later in 2020 and will be open 7 days per week.
Q. What is the plan for the REB basement area?
A. The REB basement is used for a number of different purposes related to the use of the building as an event and exhibition venue and its ongoing maintenance and care. It will now also be used as the entrance to the new Royal Exhibition Building Dome Promenade experience. As part of this it will provide a brief overview of the site’s history and showcase a small number of items held in Museums Victoria’s Royal Exhibition Building Collection relating to the stories told in the space. In the longer term it is hoped to be able to fit out the entirety of the main basement space into an exhibition gallery sharing more of the site’s stories and showing larger collection items.
Q. Could a permanent exhibition be established to showcase the innovative technologies exhibited in 1880, 1888?
A. The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens is a site with thousands of stories from the grand narratives of the 1880 and 1888 Melbourne International Exhibitions and the Opening of Federal Parliament in 1901. To everyday and lesser known stories including those of First Peoples, its use as an Influenza Hospital, memories of students attending exams and it being home to the first aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere. It is essential that we share stories and objects relating to the site’s World and National Heritage listings (and these will be a key component of the new modest Dome Promenade experience) but it is also important to bring to light those lesser known stories to showcase a diversity of voices and experiences.
Q. Why not recreate some of the external exhibits visible in the old photos of the Southern part of the Carlton Gardens?
A. There are always challenges in managing, conserving and interpreting a heritage site and these are made more complex when the site has significance at multiple levels. Though the reason for the site’s World Heritage listing the 1880 ad 1888 Melbourne international Exhibitions were always intended as temporary events. The exterior conservation focus is on the form and surrounds of the Great Hall and the Southern Gardens – maintaining and suggesting those elements that carried through both exhibitions and to Federation (not necessarily recreating elements exactly) in a way that allows for the building to be used as a modern event venue – a key reason for its World Heritage listing. In the same way that we wouldn’t physically recreate the exhibits displayed in the interior of the building, we would be unlikely to physically recreate the external exhibits in any permanent way. Though they could form the inspiration for a whole of site artwork at some point in the future and it is likely that in the future we may use augmented reality to transport visitors back through a number of different points in the site’s history. As technology advances its possible visitors might even be able to virtually ride the switch-back railway.
Q. Could subtle markers be placed in the Carlton Gardens lawns, to show the extent of the original 1888 temporary buildings?
A. We would need to check the recommendations of the Draft Heritage Management Plan, however, this could be considered as part of the draft Carlton Gardens Master Plan. This could also be indicated digitally.
Q. Perhaps reconstruct/reinstall one or two bays of the original temporary Northern buildings, based on those at Bylands?
A. There are always challenges in managing, conserving and interpreting a heritage site and these are made more complex when the site has significance at multiple levels. Though the reason for the site’s World Heritage listing the 1880 and 1888 Melbourne international Exhibitions were always intended as temporary events. The temporary annexes that stretched to the north between the Great Hall and Western and Eastern Annexes were always intended to be temporary. Following the 1880 exhibition those annexes were removed and then new ones built (on a far larger scale) in 1888. They do still exist around the state – many became railway stations. To reinstall or reconstruct them would take away from their intended purpose as temporary buildings erected for a specific event. It is likely that in the future we may use augmented reality to transport visitors back through a number of different points in the site’s history including for people to be able to physically walk through these temporary annexes or at the very least to see them.
Q. I work for UNESCO but was not even aware that this was an UNESCO Heritage Site. What are you going to do to rectify this?
A. The Management Committee and each of the site management agencies (City of Melbourne and Museums Victoria) acknowledge that more needs to be done to assist visitors and residents to enjoy the gardens and facilities, as well as learn more about the history and significance of the site.
While there is some signage displaying the UNESCO logo and explaining the World Heritage recognition of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, more can definitely be done. A key part of Museums Victoria’s role is to educate and inform about our cultural history and we are developing a strategy focused on interpretation of the history of this important part of Melbourne’s history.
This interpretation strategy will inform the development of both MV’s and City of Melbourne’s masterplans for the site.
The first phase of this interpretation will be a new experience in the basement of the building as part of the redevelopment of the Dome Promenade, which we hope to open later this year. Obviously not all of the stories can be told on signs or in limited spaces, so digital media will become an increasingly important part of our communication strategy. Please see our current website at https://museumsvictoria.com.au/reb/stories/ for examples of the stories which we can tell online.
Q. I run in the Carlton Gardens every day. Was appalled at the graffiti found on the Royal Exhibition Building (REB). Due to the lack of information I did not know who to contact. What will you do about public signage with information?
A. Please see answer to previous question.
Q. There is an issue of people using the Carlton Gardens and taking dogs off leashes. The signs are tiny and are ignored. This is not only a safety issue: the owners don't pick up after the dogs which is damaging the trees. What are you going to do about this?
A. Carlton Gardens is a dog on leash area, as is most of the municipality of the City of Melbourne. Increased signage does not always help. Animal Management Officers and Park Rangers patrol our reserves and can - and do - issue infringement notices as having a dog off leash in areas where they are not supposed to be off leash is contravening the Domestic Animal Management Act. Not picking up after a dog is against the local laws. We will continue to monitor and enforce through our patrols.
Q. What plans does the Steering Committee have to ensure the REB and surrounding sites are equipped with modernising features and innovative technologies to drive traffic, engagement and knowledge to the area?
Digital technology is already part of our approach to educating and informing the public about the building and gardens. But much more can be done to use emerging technologies to bring the past to life. We are currently exploring the possibilities of introducing virtual and mixed reality technology into our site interpretation. Given the ubiquitous use of mobile phones, adopting techniques to allow engagement via hand-held devices opens up very exciting possibilities. These have the added advantages of not interfering with the overall enjoyment of the gardens and building by introducing too many physical structures and for the content to be able to be constantly evolving and developing.
Q. Can there be signage in the environs areas assisting tourists to locate the World Heritage site?
A. Among the statutory functions of the World Heritage Management Plan is the requirement to set out policies designed to ensure that the world heritage values of any listed place are identified and transmitted to future generations.
The review of the World Heritage Management Plan will consider how to best communicate the world heritage values to Victorians and visitors- which will include consideration of how and where signage is located on the site and in its surrounds.
Q. How are First Nations acknowledged?
A. The World Heritage Steering Committee acknowledges the importance of appropriate consultation with First Peoples.It is recognised that Aboriginal connections with this site are ongoing and long pre-date the construction of the Royal Exhibition Building and establishment of the Carlton Gardens.The views of Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people with associations with site are being sought as a discrete project and will be included in the revised World Heritage Management Plan.
Q. How are Aboriginal communities going to be included into the current history and interpretation of the whole site? It seems to be a big gap between Aboriginal use of their land and after colonization chronological history.
A. The World Heritage Steering Committee acknowledges the importance of appropriate consultation with First Peoples about the significance of this World Heritage site and is currently seeking to engage suitably qualified consultants to undertake consultation with Traditional Owners’ groups as well as all other interested members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It is recognised that Aboriginal connections with this site are ongoing and long pre-date the construction of the Royal Exhibition Building and establishment of the Carlton Gardens.
Q. Is there any active Aboriginal committee as part of the Heritage Management Plan?
A. As noted for the previous question, we are in the process of engaging consultants to undertake consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Initial contact has been made with the Traditional Owners groups to advise them that we would be seeking their input into the review. There is no standing committee representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community interests, however a list has been compiled of known stakeholder groups and individuals based on advice from Aboriginal Victoria, City of Melbourne, City of Yarra, DELWP, and Museums Victoria. It is intended that input will be sought from the widest possible range of interest, whilst acknowledging the importance of input from Traditional Owners groups.
Q. Is there any related Aboriginal intangible heritage associated to the site that must be included as part of the Heritage Management Plan?
Q. Will the WHEA be extended west and south to encompass sensitive zones?
A. The draft World Heritage Strategy Plan for the WHEA is currently being prepared and this will include consideration of whether the existing WHEA extent and controls are effectively protecting the world heritage values of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.People are encouraged to make a submission on the draft World Heritage Strategy Plan and its recommendations when it becomes available for public comment later in 2020.
Q. Need height controls in the buffer zone in regards to views out of the Carlton Gardens so that the tree canopy is all that is visible other than for existing buildings.
A. The draft World Heritage Strategy Plan for the WHEA is currently being prepared and views in and out of the Carlton Gardens are being considered as part of the development of the Plan.People are encouraged to make a submission on the draft World Heritage Strategy Plan and its recommendations when it becomes available for public comment later in 2020.
Q. Will the review consider mandatory height controls to limit adverse visual impacts onto to a World Heritage site? This should complement the City of Melbourne Sunlight Public Space policy.
A. The draft World Heritage Strategy Plan for the WHEA is currently being prepared and as part of this, there is consideration of appropriate height controls and whether these should be discretionary or mandatory.
The Sunlight to Open Spaces policy is soon to go through a Planning Panels process for a potential planning scheme amendment. The policy aims to protect winter sunlight to open spaces and Carlton Gardens is one of the areas that the City of Melbourne seeks to protect from additional overshadowing during winter. Any development in the City of Melbourne that impacts the Carlton Gardens will be put through the lens of this policy
People are encouraged to make a submission on the draft World Heritage Strategy Plan and its recommendations when it becomes available for public comment later in 2020.
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