"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Forest Nurseries – a Postscript

Mike Leonard (bio)

By mid-1992, the "mega" land and natural resource management Department in Victoria had been in existence for some eight years, and had undergone its third name change, becoming known as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 

Victoria’s publicly-owned plant nurseries, which had been incorporated into the original "mega" agency had, in 1986, and as part of a strategy to improve nursery marketing and operational cost effectiveness, commenced trading corporately under the "Vicflora" name. A nursery Board of Management had been established at the same time, but it had apparently ceased meeting in 1989.

In the years that the nurseries had been part of CFL/DCE/CNR several separate reviews of their operation had been undertaken. In mid-late 1991, the then Director of the Department’s Regional Management Division conducted what was described at the time as being the "definitive nursery review" which, among other things, was to set the business’ charter for several subsequent years at least.

At the time the Vicflora business, with an annual plant production of around 10 million units, was being described as the largest plant nursery organisation operating in the country, and about 60% of Vicflora’s production was being used by CNR in public land programs.

In early 1992 I became involved in assisting with the implementation of the recently completed ‘definitive review’. I was fortunate to work closely with a full-time project officer, who had previously been employed by Victoria’s peak, private sector nursery association. The information set out below relates to that time, and in particular, to a Vicflora draft Business Plan that was circulated within CNR in March 1993.

Forest Nurseries

Map of Nursery Locations 

The need to establish forest nurseries was a part of the thinking of forestry staff in Victoria from at least as early as the 1860s.

"Large areas of the State Forests' Reserves at Macedon and Bullarook are already denuded of their timber, and as these localities possess climate and soils peculiarly favorable for the growth of non-indigenous trees, and occupy positions easy of access from the principal mining districts, I consider it to be of urgent importance that immediate steps be taken to establish small nurseries in each of these localities for the propagation and rearing of such trees as are found suitable for forest culture. Such nurseries need not be of much extent, and the cost of clearing and labor required in their management would require but a very trifling expenditure. I would also beg to recommend that the site originally selected and reserved for this purpose, on the southern slope of Mount Macedon, be employed, the soil being admirably suited for the growth of European trees; and being well sheltered from parching winds and having a plentiful supply of permanent springs; and its proximity to a railway station makes it the most desirable situation in the district. (Source: A Report from the Inspector Of Forests for 1870. W Ferguson, 1871)

This article is intended to provide an overview of the development and use of forest nurseries managed within the government sector. This section provides a quick summary of the developments, but below you can scroll through extracts from Annual Reports, and some additional comments, that will give you a more detailed picture of what occurred. Apart from many nurseries, local or regional, being a key component of the State's plantation and reforestation programs, it should not be overlooked that nurseries like Wail and Creswick, in particular, were the source for significant plantings for conservation and amenity purposes in all areas of the State. The Victorian landscape, particularly in the north and west of the State has benefited enormously from the seedlings grown and distributed widely from these places. During the 1960s, and into the 1970s, the FCV also oversaw the management of three nurseries associated with prisons which were aligned with significant hardwood reforestation programs.