The opportunity to help kick start the Southern Highlands economy could be rooted in botanics.
In fact, construction of some key structures in the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens could be just the solution to create jobs.
The subsequent boost to the region as a tourist attraction has not been lost on the board behind the development of the gardens.
That SHBG Board is looking to community leaders and politicians to help attract funding for several key projects within the Botanic Gardens located on the corner of Old South and Kangaloon Roads, Bowral.
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SHBG chair and CEO, Charlotte Webb, said funding support for the gardens had never been more important since the ability of the community to raise money for ongoing projects had come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the gardens' biggest annual fundraising event for the past 10 years, the Autumn Open Gardens and Plant Sale, had to be cancelled in April 2020.
"This event has continued to grow every year and in recent years has raised more than $100,000 annually," she said.
Mrs Webb said all funds raised had been used to develop the 33 acre botanic gardens' site.
The property currently boasts a nursery, storage building, seating, and various themed gardens including some national collections.
However, there are many more projects planned for the dream of the board to be realised.
Work on the latest project, a $200,000 playground is nearing completion, but more projects are in the pipeline, including a network of meandering paths with a $230,000 NSW grant and the beginning of the native garden with a Commonwealth government grant.
An education centre, visitors' centre, amphitheatre, boardwalks and more are high on the works program for the gardens, which were officially opened to the public by NSW Governor Marie Bashir in 2013.
Mrs Webb said that the board would be pulling out all the stops to secure funding for more projects.
"The government wants shovel ready projects to kick start the economy and we are shovel ready," she said.
Mrs Webb said a development application for the $650,000 education centre was already approved.
"The project is ready to go, all we need are the funds," he said.
Meanwhile, plans for the visitors centre, expected to cost about $15m, are also well advanced and the infrastructure detail has been agreed.
Mrs Webb said an amphitheatre, expected to cost about $200,000, could also begin as soon as funds were available.
"URBIS has been commissioned by the Board of the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens to undertake an economic and social impact assessment of the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens," she said.
"A cost-benefit analysis was undertaken to identify the net economic and social benefits attributable to the potential expansion of the Botanic Gardens precinct, including direct and indirect economic benefits resulting from the Botanic Gardens' operations, as well as impacts on community amenity and well-being more broadly."
URBIS estimates that over 20 years, the Botanic Gardens will:
- directly and indirectly create 40 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in construction and create $16.8 million in construction activity, expected to take two years
- directly and indirectly create 18.8 FTE positions as a result of its operations and deliver $25.1 million in revenue
- directly and indirectly create 18 FTE positions in the tourism industry and generate $17.9 million of increased regional tourism spending
- provide $35 million in social value, for visitors and local residents.
Mrs Webb said the report continued, that as demonstrated by the substantial net benefit delivered by the botanic gardens to the region and the positive benefit-cost ratio produced by this cost-benefit analysis, the completed development of the gardens was expected to generate significant social and economic well-being for the Southern Highlands region.
Accoding to the URBIS report costs of developing and operating the expanded botanic gardens are estimated at $38.2 million
The new developments are estimated to deliver an economic and social benefit of $94.8 million.
The expanded botanic gardens are estimated to produce a benefit- cost ratio of 2.5, ie a return of $2.50 for each $1 invested in the project.
"All we need is funding support and we are hoping local politicians will help us to get government funding for these projects across the line," Mrs Webb concluded.