Call to move Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show from World Heritage site

Call to move Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show from World Heritage site
Brendan Rees

The Carlton Residents’ Association (CRA) has called for the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) to be relocated to the CBD, citing concerns about the environmental impact to the World Heritage site.

According to the association’s submission to the City of Melbourne, the annual event, which is also staged at the Royal Exhibition Building and attracts 120,000 visitors, has had a significant impact on the delicate ecosystem of the Carlton Gardens.

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens are recognised globally, receiving a UNESCO World Heritage Listing in 2004, with buffer zones in place around the gardens to protect the site from over-development.

The CRA, together with community groups and residents, have raised concerns for several years over the MIFGS’s impact on the gardens, including “scarring of the lawn” and damage to trees and their root systems due to the heavy foot traffic, heavy machinery and temporary structures put in place for the event, causing “irreparable damage”.

“We propose that Birrarung Marr, given its location and place in the hearts and minds of city citizens and our Indigenous heritage, is a standout venue for the relocation of the MIFGS,” the CRA said in a statement.

“It will be a gain for the central city and assist in its revitalisation as a destination for Melburnians, [and] also for interstate and international visitors.”

Birrarung Marr is an urban park on the north bank of the Yarra River, next to Federation Square, and is regularly used for public activities, major events, and festivals.

The CRA also called for the major event to be renamed the “Melbourne International Festival of Flowers”, and suggested the show also be celebrated at Federation Square in a “community gardens” display “bringing those from across Melbourne in an exhibition and promotion of gardening for food and health”.

The MIFGS currently has licence from the City of Melbourne to use the Carlton Gardens from 2024 to 2026, as well as a contract with the Museum Victoria to use the Royal Exhibition Building, and a permit from Heritage Victoria. This year’s event will be held from March 20 to 24.

The City of Melbourne was contacted for comment, but referred Inner City News to the council’s August 2022 meeting when the new licence was approved, while also noting Cr Rohan Leppert, who heads the environmental portfolio, had responded to the CRA’s submission.

According to his letter to the CRA in February, Cr Leppert said the new licence approved in 2022 had entered “significant conditions and requirements” while considering the “concerns of local community members as well as the world heritage status of the gardens”.


“It would be churlish at best to envisage now, before a single MIFGS event has been held under the new licence, that the three-year extension will not be entertained,” he said.


“At worst, it would be an abrogation of council’s duty to treat parties it has entered into a licence with fairly and responsibly,” he said.

The CRA’s submission has the support of many including Stan Capp, the president of the CBD residents’ group East Enders.

He said the event’s relocation “would have the added attraction of protecting our treasured Royal Exhibition Buildings and Carlton Gardens and ensuring their world heritage status is not threatened”.

“Many residents tell me that it has lost the charm that endeared it to so many potential and actual garden lovers over the years.”

Margaret O’Brien, the president of Friends of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, said the Carlton Gardens “takes the brunt of most of the high impact development and exhibitions in the Gardens for the event”.

“The gardens are heritage; the old and ageing heritage trees, the extant garden beds, need careful nurturing. Not an influx of 100,000 people onto lawns.” 

Fiona Bell, president of Protectors of Public Land Victoria Inc., also backed the CRA, saying the event was having a “detrimental” impact to the gardens.

“As we believe there is great potential for damage to the Carlton Gardens it should be referred to the Minister for the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act”. •


Caption: Carlton Residents’ Association vice-president Martin Brennan, with Margaret O’Brien, the president of Friends of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, and Fiona Bell, president of the Protectors of Public Land Victoria Inc. Photo: Hanna Komissarova.

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