There is a Greek proverb that says: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in’.
The National Arboretum Canberra, which was officially opened on 1 February 2013 – at the commencement of Canberra’s Centenary Year – this year, exemplifies that saying.
It is a credit to the men and women who had the foresight and vision to lobby and work untiringly to make the Arboretum a reality. Jon Stanhope in particular should be acknowledged for his vision, leadership and persistence and Katy Gallagher for continuing to believe in and invest in the concept for Canberra’s future generations. Business leaders like John Mackay, Bob Winnel, Eric Koundouris and David Marshall who, along with the Friends of the Arboretum, have been there since the beginning – imagining and implementing the concept.
Rising out of the ashes of the 2003 Canberra bushfire – the Arboretum is developing into a spectacular mosaic of forests and gardens, a stunning recreational, educational, scientific and tourist asset for Canberra, a sensational national icon and a place of outstanding beauty.
Canberra Business Council’s support for the Arboretum dates back to before 2007 when not everyone believed in the idea! Even then the Council recognised the huge potential for the Arboretum to become a national and international tourist destination in its own right – a unique resource that would complement the other National Attractions in Canberra and greatly enhance our tourism industry.
Recognising the huge potential of the Arboretum to attract people to the ACT, Canberra Business Council through its Tourism Taskforce rallied the business community to get behind this project and help turn the negative sentiment around. The Chief Minister at the time acknowledged that the business community’s support at that critical stage of the development of the concept was a defining moment in the history of the project. Without the support of the business community the vision of the Arboretum could well have been lost in the community and political opposition of the day.
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Canberra Business Council is very proud that it played a small part in garnering broad business support for the Arboretum at its inception.
The Council was also there when the Arboretum opened hosting the first ever dinner function at the National Arboretum’s Village Centre on 7 February 2013. The dinner was attended by over 460 business leaders and other guests who helped christen the new venue.
And looking to the future, the Council was delighted to be able to provide a platform for the Arboretum to launch a campaign to recruit 200 companies, families and individuals as Arboretum Foundation Members. The money raised from Foundation membership will be used to set up a perpetual trust fund to secure the future growth and sustainability of the Arboretum.
There is no doubt that the National Arboretum Canberra will make an enormous contribution to the ACT economy and to the community. It will be a tourist destination attracting visitors to Canberra, encouraging them to stay longer and boosting our tourism industry. It will provide employment opportunities and give Canberra this new world-class function venue. It will also become a significant recreational and educational asset with an important role for sustainability, the protection of biodiversity and for best practice in horticulture and water management. It is destined to join the outstanding arboreta and gardens of the world.
Perhaps even more importantly, the people who are responsible for taking the Arboretum from concept to existence, have not only built an incredible tourist facility and a beautiful oasis for the people of Canberra, they are leaving a lasting legacy for future generations of Australians.
I have no doubt that the National Arboretum Canberra will be recognised by future generations as the legacy Centenary project – a gift from the people of Canberra to the nation to mark the Centenary of their national capital.